Tesla proposes installing 39 free car-charging stations in Elgin

A request to install 39 electric car-charging stations on city-owned lots to be used for free by electric vehicle owners has won the endorsement of the Elgin Sustainability Commission.

Kapital Electric, of Bensenville, presented the proposal to the commission in which stations would be placed in five downtown parking lots and at the Eastside Recreation Center, Highlands of Elgin Golf Course and the Bowes Creek Country Club.

Car company Tesla would foot the $109,629 installation cost with the proviso that of the 39 stations, 22 would be available only to Tesla owners.

Commission members recommended the Elgin City Council approve Kapital’s plan, said Molly Center, city communications specialist and liaison to the commission.

“However, they also motioned to discuss in more detail at their June 12 meeting the option to purchase monitoring technology,” Center said. “The technology costs roughly $1,500 per site, and would come out of the commission’s budget. So this would likely go to council following that determination, at the June 27 committee of the whole meeting.”

Once the stations are installed, they would become city property, she said. They would be free to use and automatically shut off after a car is fully charged.

“They do not have any payment technology,” Center said. “The electricity would be drawn from city-owned electrical boxes, thus absorbed in the city’s regular utility bills,” she said.

Elgin currently has one dual charging station provided by ChargePoint located in the Centre parking deck. That station is free for users, and has more technology than those being offered by Tesla, Center said.

“The ChargePoint station in the Centre deck allows you to monitor usage, and users can also reserve the stall when open for up to 15 minutes,” she said.

In the last year, plug-in drivers used 9,483 kilowatt hours of electricity from the charging stations. At a rate at 5.28 cents per kilowatt hour, the cost to the city was about $500 for a year, Center said.

Sustainability Commission member Tia Aagesen said she was in favor of the idea. “(The new charging stations) would be for the public good and be of benefit to the environment.”

Electric vehicles are becoming a larger portion of the auto market, and companies such as UPS have added some electric vehicles to their fleets, Aagesen said.

Kapital Electric has already installed 22 charging stations for Fox Valley Park District in Aurora, and is in the process of installing 18 for the Glen Ellyn Park District and 22 for the village of Oak Brook, Vice President Don Butler said. They also have a contract to install in 12 in Naperville, replacing some stations and adding new ones, he said.

Mayor Dave Kaptain and City Councilman Terry Gavin said they have some qualms about the proposal.

Among their concerns is whether the city should be providing free space for Tesla and free electricity to Tesla owners, given that the least expensive model the company sells is $35,000 and many are two or three times that amount.

Gavin said, “What’s actually going to be the cost for Elgin to do this?”

Butler said most people with plug-in vehicles charge them at home and use charging stations to top off their batteries, usually for an hour or two.

“It typically takes around $7 of electricity to charge a Tesla from empty to full, which also takes 10 hours,” Butler said.

That said, “Tesla is not going to say you can’t charge” drivers for the electricity they use, he said. Some hotels have deals with Tesla do just that, he said.

The benefit for Elgin would be bringing people to the city who seek out free charging stations and who end up spending money in town by shopping, dining and doing other activities, Butler said.

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