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City of Highland Park | Highland Park News

While the number of electric car owners in Highland Park is comparatively few, city officials believe the installation of a public car-charging station will promote the city’s image as a “green” community and potentially draw new consumers to the city’s downtown business district.

Highland Park is planning to install its first charging station in the lower level of a parking deck east of the Metra train tracks near Laurel and St. Johns avenues. The dual plug-in charger is capable of recharging two vehicles at once. Plans also call for two adjacent parking spaces designated as preferred electric vehicle parking.

The charging station will be registered with the U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Station Locator to allow motorists to find the station by GPS, computer and mobile applications.

The Highland Park Police Department has said the parking structure has excess capacity, so the location should not tie up premium downtown parking spaces, a concern previously expressed by council member Alyssa Knobel.

Bryan Tillman, the city’s sustainability consultant, noted that the parking deck is conveniently situated near businesses, retail shops and restaurants. The station can also be used by patrons of the Highland Park Public Library or people working at city hall.

“The diversity of the destinations near this parking structure adds to its attractiveness,” said Tillman.

According to city vehicle registrations in 2012, there are nine electric car owners in Highland Park. Currently, there are four car-charging stations in town, all on private property.

Tillman said one Chevy Volt car owner emailed City Manager David Knapp to say the presence of car-charging stations directly influenced his shopping, dining and recreational choices. The electric car enthusiast said Volt owners are quick to publicize and patronize businesses and communities that install electric charging stations.

The Highland Park City Council is poised to approve a five-year contract with Green Wheels LTD, a firm selected through a competitive bidding process to install and maintain the system. Five municipalities issued a joint request for proposals to achieve better pricing and build car-charging capacity in the region. In addition to Highland Park, the participants were the city of Lake Forest and the villages of Deerfield, Skokie, Glenview and Lake Bluff.

The city’s first-year costs would be reduced from about $15,000 to about $8,000 with rebates from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. The rebate program for electric vehicle infrastructure was announced Aug. 30 and eligible equipment must be installed by Dec. 19.

The city plans to charge consumers $1 for each hour of use, or about $3 for a typical three-hour charge session, to cover the cost of electricity and collection of payments. The rate structure will be evaluated every year to ensure proper pricing.

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