As electric vehicle (EV) adoption rates continue to rise, EV charging stations are rolling out nationwide on a mass scale. However, progress is not uniform, and traveling through various states requires effective planning as the national charging infrastructure is implemented over the next few years.
If you’re an EV owner or considering purchasing an EV in Illinois, it’s important to understand what owning and charging an electric vehicle involves, whether at your residence or on the go. This article will provide tips and information on Illinois EV charging to help your travel planning efforts and ensure you experience seamless EV ownership in the Prairie State.
As the shift from fossil fuel-dependent vehicles to plug-in electric models grows exponentially, you will see more electric autos and trucks on the interstates and more EV charging stations in parking lots around you. While you are undoubtedly excited about your new vehicle, you probably wonder where to charge your automobile battery in Illinois regularly.
Drivers typically charge their vehicles overnight. Many EV owners find charging their car at home when they do not need to saves them time and money. With a home charging station, you can confidently rely on the convenience: Your vehicle will be ready to drive when you are, you can avoid stopping and potentially waiting for a public charging station, and you can take advantage of lower overnight electric rates. That’s great in residential settings that provide access to an electrical outlet near a parking space.
Some drivers find a Level 1 (120-volt) charger that uses any outlet adequate, albeit slow. It can take an entire day to charge a battery fully. However, adding some range overnight may be sufficient for your daily commute. Many homeowners find a Level 2 (240-volt) home charging station more convenient. A Level 2 unit will provide a faster fill and more flexibility, adding about 124 miles in the range of about 5 hours for most EVs. If your home accommodation enables it, you should investigate the convenience and low cost of installing a Level 2 (240-volt) EV charging station at home.
There are various government and utility incentives for installing a home charging station. In addition, the cost can quickly be recouped from savings accrued based on running a vehicle on electricity versus gasoline. According to ComEd, someone driving 15,000 miles annually uses an estimated $2,531/year in gas. By comparison, the utility estimates that an EV would only cost $753/year to charge based on their electricity rates in the Chicago metropolitan area. Over five years, they estimate gasoline expenditures to cost approximately $12,656, whereas the costs for charging an EV are estimated at $3,765.
Even if your residential setting is ideal for accommodating your EV’s needs, it’s vital to consider locations where you might charge your EV when commuting, running errands across the county, or traveling to other parts of the state. You must locate charging stations if you travel elsewhere in the state or country.
This is particularly important if you plan a road trip with your new vehicle. Preparing for interstate EV travel is complicated since each state has its unique profile and level of support for electrification. In communities with relatively scarce EV charging stations, travelers must plan their trips around charging stops with attractions to visit while the battery capacity gauge returns to full power.
Along with mapping out your route, you should prepare for unexpected trip changes. Ensure you have reliable and readily-available access to the web and mobile apps, enabling you to locate nearby public charging stations throughout your travels.
Illinois does not rank in the top 10 nationally for EV ownership, but the state is making headway with an established target to have 1 million passenger EVs on the roads by 2030. That’s an ambitious goal for a state that contained fewer than 45,000 registered EVs as of August 2022, but the numbers have been climbing faster than previously as newer models reach showrooms.
As of late 2022, Illinois only had approximately 2,300 public EV charging stations. Most of those were in the Chicago metropolitan area, Springfield, or Bloomington. Concerns about a shortage of chargers in large parts of the state should be alleviated soon based on current initiatives.
The National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program created by the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure bill provides more than $5 billion through June 2027 to help states build a national network of 500,000 EV charging stations along highly traveled roadways. Each state was supposed to develop a NEVI implementation plan. The Federal Highway Administration approved the Illinois plan in September 2022.
The Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) is installing blue signs along interstate highways directing drivers to the EV charging stations, like highway signs that indicate gas stations at upcoming exits. The state plans 558 miles of signed EV corridors.
IDOT identified over 1,000 miles of highways as priorities for public charging station installation. The state identified critical early charging station installation locations along major high-trafficked roadways. They include Interstates 39,55, 70, 74, 80, 90, and 94, along state borders to encourage interstate travel.
The state is aggressively incentivizing public and private organizations to install Level 2 and Level 3 charging stations. They are offering rebates of up to 80%. While they can charge an EV battery in less than one hour, Level 3 or Direct Current Fast Charging (DCFC) equipment requires higher electricity currents than those available in residential areas. However, a Level 3 option is ideal along the interstate to charge up and get back on the road quickly.
The state has received grant money to fund 348 DCFC (aka Level 3) charging stations in 87 priority, highly trafficked locations throughout the state.
It’s excellent news that hundreds of new charging stations are being installed. As an EV driver, you need to have the ability to plan your road trip and ensure you will have reliable access to charging stations along your route. There are several tools available to help you along the journey.
The U.S. Department of Energy’s Alternative Fueling Stations site helps you locate stations nationwide. It also includes a route planner.
Charge Hub, EVgo, ChargePoint, PlugShare, and Electrify America are some EV charging networks that have sprung up with convenient mobile apps. Their apps will help you find fast chargers with the types of plugs you may need, free public chargers, and more data. Some apps will tell you which stations are available to avoid a wait. Since some may only list their state having more than one download for you is a good idea trip.
You can take advantage of charging stations during longer stops on the trip. Many hotels, motels, national parks, and amusement parks have added charging stations as amenities.
Some EV owners turn to RV parks as charging stops along their route. While the campgrounds don’t have fast chargers, it is possible to camp overnight and set up your vehicle. You should check ahead because not every facility can accommodate EV charging. For example, KOA is adding EV charging capabilities at many locations, but not all sites have charging available at this time.
Lastly, it would be best to keep the Level 1 charging cord with your automobile with you. While Level 1 charging is notoriously slow, the charger allows you to plug your vehicle into any standard outlet to add range if necessary.
New EV drivers must know the weather’s impact on battery range. Illinois’ climate can vary from frigid winters in the north to extreme heat in the south, which can impede battery performance.
You will get to know your vehicle’s performance over time, but you must be aware that EVs lose power quickly in cold weather. The battery will need charging more often when driving in climates below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. When the thermometer hits 20 degrees, a battery can lose 40% of its range.
Likewise, excessive heat will also impact battery performance. One study found temperatures over 95 degrees Fahrenheit will reduce driving range by 17%.
Much like mileage estimates in cars running on gas, EV battery range can vary greatly. Actual results are affected by weather, driving speed, traffic conditions, the amount of cargo or passengers, hilly terrain, and other variables.
The best way to ensure your battery is always ready when you are is by leveraging the convenience and reliability of home charging. Installing a home charging station eliminates concerns about adequate battery range whether commuting to work, school, or just around town.
If you are looking to install a home EV charger, turn to Qmerit, one of North America’s most trusted EV charging station installers. Qmerit’s expertise simplifies installation for EV drivers across the U.S. and Canada with our unsurpassed network of certified electricians specializing in EV charging technologies.
Get started today by providing Qmerit with some information about your home and a few photos, and receive an upfront pricing or custom quote offer.