EV Owners Can “Juice Up” For Free in Chicago

By George Straton

Autosavant recently attended the first of what national parking facility operator InterPark claims is the dawn of a new era in vehicle parking facilities. That era is the development of a charging infrastructure for the plug in electric vehicle.

Hints coming from Nissan are that the Chicago market, where the event was held, isn’t likely to receive its first allocation of the Leaf, the first plug-in electric vehicle to be “mass” produced for the U.S. market, until the end of 2012.

A representative for Carbon Day, the Midwest distributor of the Coulomb Technology 220V rapid charge terminals, suggested that installing EV charging terminals in Public Parking facilities in Chicago might seem to the uninitiated a bit like “putting the proverbial egg before the chicken.” However the fact is that the Windy City is already home to several $100,000 plus Tesla EV Roadsters, and at least a few Toyota Priuses that have undergone a conversion from gas-electric hybrid to add plug-in EVcapabilities.

National parking facility operator and GE Real Estate subsidiary InterPark isn’t waiting until the last moment to tap into the potentially lucrative “Park and Charge” market. According to InterPark Senior Vice President Jim Luria, all twelve Chicago InterPark parking structures are being outfitted with two Coulomb Technologies fast chargers. Parking/charging spaces for EVs will be located “up front” in the parking facilities. To boot, at least the first twelve months InterPark customers using the EV charging stations will not pay any cost for the charge. 

Considering the earlier mention of EV charging as a “potentially lucrative” market, it stands to reason that EV charging will not always be a free proposition for customers.In fact the announcement of parking facility charging rates is likely to coincide with the introduction to market of the Nissan LEAF, Chevy Volt and Toyota Prius plug-in.

To draw attention to their effort InterPark is sponsoring a giveaway (no purchase required) for parking discounts, a three-year complimentary lease on a Toyota Prius, and a two-year complimentary lease of a Tesla Roadster Sport. For those who are convinced that EVs aren’t “environmentally friendly enough” another prize is a pair of Trek bicycles.  While true “greenies” might lean toward the bikes, the winner of the red Tesla Roadster will probably make other Illinois motorists green with envy.  Though no purchase is necessary to enter, apparently the only way to enter is to get a game card at an InterPark garage office.  Good luck, Chicago readers!

Author: George Straton

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  1. There are several free charging stations in the Phoenix metro area left over from the old EV-1 days.

    Obviusly not rapid chargers, but I presume they still work.

  2. Shouldn’t people pay for there own usage. Why should others pay for it?

  3. Dan, this is just a short-term promotion that only lasts a year or two. Eventually, the parking operator plans to charge for the electricity, and I’m sure it will be a profit center for them. In the meantime, they get the publicity of being early implementers of EV charging infrastructure, and the actual cost for operating a couple of charging locations in a large garage is, I’m sure, minimal.

  4. Dan, for a parking garage presumably one pays “to park”, especially in a big city like Chicago.

    If the parking garage owner has empty spaces, it may make ecconomic sense for the garage owner to provide “free” electricity if it increases his dayly use.

    Similarly, it may make sense for some stores to provide free electricity if it keeps shopers in their store.

    I’m certain someone somewhere has woked out exactly how much extra on average folks spend for every extra 1/2 hour they spend in a shop. For a traditional shopping mall, giving away $2 in electricity to encourage someone to shop for an extra hour could be a lucrative trade.

  5. Dan:

    Mark is correct. It normally runs $22-26 per day to park in a Chicago Loop garage, and Interpark was not offering free parking to the EV customers.

    Outside Richmond, VA on Interstate 64, at the New Kent rest area, the Dominion Virginia Power Co. operates 4 Level II charge outlets to service its own fleet of vehicles. It offers charges free to all other users.

    If these initial electricity giveaways promote EV awareness and reduce costs of governments by operating fewer fossil fuel vehicles there seems to some benefit to all taxpayers.

    Mark in AZ:

    Were any of those old chargers by any chance at the Scottsdale Fashion Square??

    Here are two links that show current and planned consumer commercial Level II and III charge stations in the U.S. developed by ECOtality and Chargepoint.



    It seems there at least 5 Level II stations in metro Phoenix. I have a hunch there are others in operation not yet shown on the site.

    Current plans from EV infrastructure leader ECOtality (etec) seem to call for Coulomb Tech to deploy several dozen Aker Wade Level III fast charge (460V- 55kW) stations in Metro Phoenix by end of 2011, with hundreds of Level II units in suit. The first units should hit Phoenix / Tuscon and the other 4 LEAF launch markets by December, when the first deliveries to consumers begin. Aker Wade says the devices can fully charge a Mitsubishi iMiEV in 20 minutes.

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