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Austin B. Smith/ Medill

Many ChargePoint electric vehicle charging stations have been installed around the city, but their use is sporadic.

Loop parking garages find little use so far for electric charging stations

by Austin B. Smith
April 12, 2011

Electric vehicle charging stations are popping up in Loop parking garages. But so far, they’re doing little more than collecting dust.

“They haven’t been used much yet, but we are hoping,” said Scott Nedbeck, manager of the InterPark Government Center garage, “We’ve only had them a few months.”

Coulomb Technologies, the California firm that manufactures ChargePoint stations, does not see the lack of use as an issue. The company is trying to establish a comprehensive infrastructure so that a lack of charging stations is not a deterrent for potential electric vehicle buyers. However, very few charging stations exist elsewhere in the Chicago area.

Coulomb’s website provides a map of the 28 charging stations in the Loop that shows the status of each one; at various points on Tuesday the site never showed more than two in use.

InterPark, which owns most of the charging stations in Chicago, purchased them for 11 Loop garages, each with two stations, and offers free charging for garage customers.

“We have seen a few stations get occasional use,” said Mark Obeler, Chicago account executive with InterPark. He also said that a couple of stations are used on a consistent basis, either by consumers or for road testing of new electric vehicles.

Obeler said he expects electric vehicles, therefore charging stations, to become more popular in coming months.

Of the 10 charging stations visited on Tuesday, at five different garages, none was in use. An employee at the InterPark garage at 203 N. LaSalle St. said their charging stations are used less than three times per week.

Brian Levin, vice president of Carbon Day Automotive, the local distributor for Coulomb, said that some locations are being used frequently and all of them are seeing increased use.