All Electric Vehicles Still Few, But Charging Station Numbers are Growing in the Corridor
By Dave Franzman, Reporter
CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa- The number of electric vehicle owners in Iowa is still the tiniest of fractions. The Iowa Department of Transportation (DOT) puts the number of electric-only vehicles registered in the state at just more than 100. But it’s apparently getting easier for those owners, and owners of much more common plug-in gasoline/electric hybrids, to get a charge to keep their vehicles going in the I-380 corridor.
The national “Plugshare” map showing electrical charging stations nationwide has about 40 on file in Iowa that are open to the public. But drivers of electric vehicles who stick to the Cedar Rapids-Iowa City corridor area should find it much easier to get a charge. The “Plugshare” map shows seven public charging stations in Cedar Rapids and six in Iowa City. And electric vehicle owners in Cedar Rapids say the best news is the price. Those public charging stations in the corridor are currently not charging anyone who needs to get power for their electric vehicle.
Schneider Electric senior engineer Gary Scott has a vested interest in seeing electric vehicle charging stations multiply. His company, located at 3600 6th St. S.W., designs and builds vehicle charging systems both for home and commercial use.
But he also owns a Nissan Leaf, and it’s one of the first 40 all-electric vehicles sold in Iowa. So he’s tracked and even visited every place in the I-380 corridor that offers a public charger for his vehicle.
Scott said he tries to spread the word about why installing a charging station makes business sense.
“People that have businesses where they want people to come and visit for a few hours, they might have a charging station because people will be there that long to charge up,” Scott said adding that people who hang around a business for that long tend to spend money on other things.
Schneider Electric offers a charging station in front of the plant, not just for employees but free to any electric vehicle owner who wants to plug in.
Two other electrical companies on the southwest side of Cedar Rapids, Paulson Electric and the Van Meter Company, do likewise. The most public charging stations in Cedar Rapids are ones at the NewBo City Market in the New Bohemia District and two at Kirkwood Community College. The one at The Hotel at Kirkwood Center might be the best-used locally.
Hotel managers report 197 charging visits in the year and a half since it began operation.
Lijun Chadmina , president of the Thorland Company, has an office next door to the charging station at the NewBo City Market. Chadima said her husband typically drives their all-electric vehicle to work in Iowa City where he can use a charging station there. But when she has the car she typically plugs in at NewBo. She can see a time when charging station owners might want to get paid for the service.
“I think down the road they will probably start to charge for the time you are using their electricity. I’m not sure if they are doing it for money or just goodwill will now,” Chadima said.
Engineer Scott said right now, all the stations he knows of in the corridor are simply providing it as a service to encourage the use of more electric vehicles.
“Right now, it’s a promotion. We’re trying, Schneider Electric, is trying to promote our industry and people having electric vehicles,” Scott said.
One reason some charging station operators aren’t metering the service is some received donated components or grants to install the systems which can range in price from $5,000 for the simplest to about $15,000 for more sophisticated commercial models. But if enough electric vehicles appear and need fueling, then owners might switch to a pay-for-use service.
What's On KCRG