Council may decide second site of car-charge stations

Kimberly Railey

Evanston aldermen may decide Monday in which parking lot to build the second of two solar canopies that would serve as charging stations for plug-in electric cars.

“Evanston has made significant strides in recent years to reduce our carbon output and become a greener city,” Ald. Jane Grover (7th) said. “The electrical car charging stations, we hope, will become part of that larger green picture.”

At the last council meeting on Sept. 26, members agreed to place one of the canopies at the city lot on Central Street and Stewart Avenue. Aldermen tabled discussion on locating the other at the Chicago Avenue city lot by the Evanston Public Library Main Library, 1703 Orrington Ave.

The decision was rendered after the non-profit I-GO Car Sharing secured grant funding from the state and other sources to dispatch 36 plug-electric cars with solar charging canopies in the Chicago area.

The project is billed at more than $250,000, but Evanston would not foot any of the cost, according to a city memo.

Evanston was targeted as a site because of its commitment to the environment, I-GO CEO Sharon Feigon said. The city currently has 11 I-GO cars and serves over 500 I-GO members, the memo states.

“There’s a lot of interest in shared vehicles there, and we thought it’d be a great way to help introduce electric vehicles to the community,” said Feigon, who is also an Evanston resident.

She said the library lot’s downtown location is both a viable and favorable option.

“It’s very visible,” Feigon said. “It’s very central. Many people go to the library and live around there.”

However, at the meeting, Ald. Judy Fiske (1st) said the lot was too heavily utilized, instead suggesting the construction of the canopy at 621 Oak Ave., across from the post office. Feigon, however, rejected that proposal on the grounds that I-GO cars formerly near the area were insufficiently used.

The terms of the grant mandate the canopies be built by the end of this year, Feigon said. She added if the aldermen cannot reach a consensus on where to locate the second one, I-GO will direct its efforts to another part of the Chicago area.

“We can’t wait any longer,” she said. “If there isn’t support for it, we’ll do it somewhere else.”

Each solar car canopy would cover four parking spaces, two of which would feature charging stations for I-GO cars. The remaining two spots would have meters for public use.

In the future, the city could decide to add two charging stations for private use, Feigon said.

The energy from the solar canopy would supply about 75 percent of the energy needed to fully charge two cars, said Catherine Hurley, the city’s sustainable programs coordinator.

“It’s very low-impact transportation,” Hurley said. “I’m really excited for the opportunity.”

The plan stipulates I-GO would pay the city $80 monthly for every parking spot I-GO reserves to cover lost meter revenue, Feigon said. I-GO would also fund the operating of the solar canopies and charging stations.

The solar canopies would mark a significant step towards greater sustainability, said Liz Schrier, campus outreach coordinator of Students for Ecological and Environmental Development.

“There’s still a lot of skepticism about solar energy,” the Weinberg sophomore said. “But it’s becoming a lot cheaper, and it’s completely reusable and sustainable. This is a good step to show the community it’s a viable source of energy.”

The location of the second canopy will be debated at a council meeting 7 p.m. Monday at the Lorraine H. Morton Civic Center, 2100 Ridge Ave.

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