Chicago to add 280 electric car charging stations

Said Al-Hallaj
Said Al-Hallaj is the chief executive of AllCell Technologies and a member of the Chicago Electric Vehicle Consortium

By Ann Meyer

With 280 electric car charging stations to be installed at Chicago-area plazas by the end of the year,  recharging an electric vehicle should get easier, experts said.

The development stems from a $1.9 million city of Chicago contract awarded to California-based 350Green LLC, which plans to build a nationwide network of charging stations, said Said Al-Hallaj, chief executive of Chicago-based AllCell Technologies and a member of the Chicago Electric Vehicle Consortium.

That type of commitment is likely to encourage consumers and businesses to buy an electric vehicle, said Robert Anderson, chairman of Hybrid Electric Vehicle Technologies in Chicago. “This is a chicken-and-egg situation,” Anderson said, where consumers don’t buy electric cars until they’re assured of ample charging stations, but companies don’t want to install charging stations until they see sufficient demand.

The city contract is designed to make the initiative feasible. “It’s probably appropriate that cities take the first step,” Anderson said.

Charging stations expected to lure electric car makers

350Green will operate both quick-charging stations, which can charge vehicles in less than 30 minutes, as well as so-called 220V Level 2 charging stations, the Chicago Tribune reported Wednesday. Level 2 stations generally charge a vehicle in a few hours, Al-Hallaj said. In addition, the company plans to install a few solar charging stations, Al-Hallaj said.  350Green was not available for comment.

Chicago’s commitment to electric vehicle charging stations will likely encourage electric car manufacturers to come to the area, Al-Hallaj said. The Tribune reported last year that   electric vehicle manufacturers  look for a volume of  hybrid vehicle owners, friendly public policies and supportive utilities when considering geographic locations to roll out electric cars.

“If we can create a hub here, it will be good for everyone involved,” said Al-Hallaj, who hopes to provide his company’s battery technology to 350Green’s solar charging stations.

Building capacity

While the recharging station initiative is being partly funded by public dollars, it makes sense for a private company to invest in and manage the project, Al-Hallaj said. “You need a private company to say, `We’ll build the infrastructure and the membership,'” Al-Hallaj said.  “Until the capacity increases, someone has to make the investment.”

350Green typically installs charging stations in parking areas near malls or supermarkets to make it convenient for people to recharge their vehicles. The strategy should reduce what’s known as “range anxiety,” he said, where drivers are reluctant to take their electric vehicles beyond a certain distance because they’re not certain they’ll be able to find a charging station. “That’s the biggest challenge,” he said.

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