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Article updated: 7/19/2013 4:04 PM

More electric car chargers in Naperville's future

By Marie Wilson

The electric car charging station that calls a downtown Naperville parking lot home has been used 468 times in the past nine months, officials say.

That's enough for the city to pursue plans to install more charging stations downtown, said Caitlin Marcon, project manager in transportation, engineering and development.

"We've had requests for more charging stations or complaints that they came to downtown Naperville to use the charging station and it was already taken," Marcon said. "We've decided to move forward with putting together a RFP (request for proposals) for future charging stations."

The number of stations to be added hasn't been determined, because three months remain in the one-year testing period the city began in October. One electric car charger has been available since last fall in the Van Buren Street parking lot, allowing free charges for up to three hours.

"As car transportation and devices change, we're glad that there is a device like that in our downtown for consumers that have electric vehicles," said Katie Wood, executive director of Downtown Naperville Alliance. "I think it shows a progressive spirit of our downtown that we certainly like to foster."

The charger has been busiest the past few months, with 168 uses between April and June. Peak use times are lunch and dinner hours throughout the week, but Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays see the most overall use, Marcon said.

While charging has been free for drivers of electric vehicles, the city paid roughly $100 for the charges used between April and June, based on additional power consumption at a rate of $0.0871 per kilowatt hour.

The low cost of powering electric vehicles is part of the reason city Councilman Bob Fieseler said he supports additional charging stations.

"I'm a proponent of electric vehicles because it's going to strengthen our country's energy independence and it's not going to make our air pollution any worse," Fieseler said.

He said one of his focuses is to "deploy as much clean energy technology as makes sense for Naperville."

The charger in the Van Buren parking lot came as part of the Smart Grid Initiative. Two other chargers obtained through the program have been used by the city to test electric vehicles for possible use in Naperville's fleet, Marcon said.

"I would like to see those other two we have put somewhere sensible, not just downtown," Fieseler said. "I think we ought to pay attention to the southwest as well -- maybe one at the 95th Street Library."

Marcon said the city will allocate funds from the special service tax on downtown properties to buy and install more charging stations next year. Users also can be on the lookout for a QR code and a link to a survey that's soon to be posted at the plug. The city will use survey results and the next three months of data to complete plans to offer more chargers, she said.

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