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Illinois Gets Charged-Up for Electric Cars

January 23, 2012

CHICAGO - It was only about 15 years ago that the first hybrid vehicle rolled into Illinois, and now just about everyone knows someone who drives one. Pretty soon, many Illinois drivers may be plugging in rather than filling up. Automakers are selling several new electric car models this year and many consumers are wondering if they can afford to make the switch.

Howard Learner, executive director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the federal government, the state of Illinois, and some cities provide rebates and tax incentives to help out with the cost. But he predicts that it will take a while for the auto industry to go green.

"We need to get the policies right, but this is going to live and die based on consumer demand. If consumers see cars they like, that drive well, look good, and help them save money and also help reduce pollution, that market will grow."

Learner says the Center has launched a new website that includes objective information about electric cars, prices, and incentives for the Chicago area, with links to some other Midwest information as well.

Learner says the Illinois Commerce Commission is looking into ways to give more favorable electric rates to drivers who charge up during the night when it's better for the environment.

"If you charge at night, in Northern Illinois, most of the power is coming from low-greenhouse-gas wind power, nuclear power, not from coal."

Later this week, the town of Normal will be getting a fleet of electric vehicles for the mayor and other city departments to use. The Bloomington-Normal area, Chicago, Oak Park and Evanston are all installing charging stations to encourage cleaner driving.

Learner sees that as a positive development.

"We're pushing very hard for there to be more solar and wind power charging stations. So we're getting clean power and clean energy to charge up the clean cars. That's the pathway for the future."

The I-Go car sharing company is also installing solar-powered car canopies and Walgreen's is setting up charging stations around the country as well.

That website is: pluginchicagometro.org

Mary Anne Meyers, Public News Service - IL