Can Chicago be Electrified by Electric Vehicles?

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This week President Obama reiterated his goal of deploying one million electric vehicles (EVs) on America’s roads by 2015. On the one hand, this is a pretty modest goal, considering that north of 11 million vehicles are sold each year in the U.S.  On the other hand, it is far from certain that the President’s goal will be achieved without serious effort on the part of our utilities and the state regulators who oversee the utilities working collaboratively with customers, the automakers and companies who will operate charging stations.  

And it’s even less sure that we in Chicago will be positioned to reap the benefits offered by EVs

Chicagoans, who routinely face the highest gasoline prices in the nation, stand to benefit tremendously from electrification of the transportation sector, both through lower fuel costs and cleaner air.  Unfortunately, ComEd recently submitted an assessment to the Illinois Commerce Commission in which it stated that the most optimistic projection of EV deployment in its service territory at just 20,000 by the end of 2013.

Before automakers will get serious about Chicago as a market for these cleaner vehicles, our regulators need to demonstrate that we’ve worked through the complicated legal and technical issues to ensure that EV drivers can own and operate their vehicles safely, reliably, conveniently, and using the cleanest electricity possible.

The Illinois Commerce Commission has recently launched an initiative, led by Chairman Manny Flores and Commissioner Erin O’Connell-Diaz to do just that.  We commend the commissioners for launching this effort, and urge them to put the pedal to the metal to address the barriers to EV ownership here in Illinois.  NRDC submitted initial comments on January 21, and will participate in the workshops to come this spring. Hopefully, the process moves along quickly so that we can see some of these beauties cruising down Lake Shore Drive!