Powering Chicago

Powering Chicago

Episode 4134 , Episode 4148
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The demand for electric vehicle infrastructure is growing nationwide. But meeting that demand will require more than just equipment to deploy and funding to install it. We’ll need qualified contractors and electricians to do the actual work. 

We met up with an organization that is powering Chicago’s EV charging future and setting an example for cities across the country.

Illinois is going all-in on promoting electric vehicles, with a goal to increase EV registrations from 37,000 currently, to over a million electric vehicles on the road in Illinois by 2030. To help achieve this goal, the state is providing a $4,000 rebate for select EV’s on top of existing federal incentives, along with a rebate of up to 80% for the cost of installing a charging station. Federal funding is expected to add 500,000 new chargers nationwide over the next few years.

In addition, a 2020 Chicago city ordinance requires all new residential buildings with five or more units, and commercial properties with 30 or more parking spaces, to have 20 percent of onsite parking be electric vehicle ready.

With thousands of charging outlets to be installed over the next decade, where now you typically see clusters of two to four chargers in a store parking lot, there might be dozens of units lined up in the not-so-distant future. That creates a daunting task for electrical contractors, who will need  a larger skilled workforce to install them all. 

Powering Chicago is the entity that bridges the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 134, with the Electrical Contractors Association, through classroom and on-the-job training and community outreach.

ELBERT WALTERS III: The contractors serve as management, so they do the hiring of electricians and managing electricians on the jobsites. The relationship is that powering Chicago and the IBEW Local 134, the labor portion, actually provides the manpower-- the qualified workforce.

JOHN DAVIS: The IBEW/NECA Technical Institute, in the Chicago suburb of Alsip, is already one of the most forward-thinking and well-regarded electrical training centers in the country, with a history going back more than 100 years. And there is no shortage of applicants testing for admission to the union’s 5-year paid apprenticeship training program.

GENE KENT: Our current enrollment of apprentices in the entire apprenticeship is about 1300. Right now, in school, we have about 200 apprentices every quarter, come through for their quarterly education.

JOHN DAVIS: In 2015, In-Tech debuted this renewable energy training field: a fully-functional microgrid with a wind turbine, solar arrays, a bi-directional 100-kilowatt power inverter and a battery energy storage system. These are active training aids for the students that also harness and use renewable energy within the school building.

GENE KENT: What we like to do is make sure that our apprentices are taught foundational knowledge. And then we build knowledge of the industry throughout their entire apprenticeship, so that when those new cutting-edge things come into play, they only have to learn the very end-user component.

JOHN DAVIS: Reaching beyond the in-tech campus, this demonstration trailer travels to area schools and events, serving as a mobile classroom and EV ambassador. At the recent Chicago Auto Show, thousands of show visitors stepped up to ask the experts about adding EV charging equipment to their own homes or businesses. 

Powering Chicago has also produced this downloadable e-book, full of information on how to plan, install and maintain electric vehicle service equipment. Car dealerships are among the many types of businesses expanding their EV charger inventories, anticipating the influx of new electrified models soon to be hitting their showrooms and service areas.

GINA DOLLEY: The typical layout is that there’s several in service, three to four, in service. Um, one in the back for delivery of the vehicles, and then eventually you’re going to see them coming out front for customer-facing, customer use.

I only see it growing from this point on. Right now, it’s-- I’m doing one to two a month. I think it’s going to be more. I have a feeling that we’re going to open up an EV division, and I just have guys dedicated to the installation for these units.

JOHN DAVIS: The winds of change are a’ coming, and forward thinking, like that shown here in the Windy City, is what it will take to keep us all charged up for the road ahead.


EV Sales 4

EV Sales

Episode 4336
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The headlines are everywhere: electric vehicle sales are down! Dealers are swamped with unsold EVs! Car companies are doubling down on internal-combustion engines! The EV era is over before it began! And so on…

You know, there’s a lot of misinformation swirling around these days about the state of the current EV market. So, what are the facts and where might EVs go from here?

We’re in the midst of the most revolutionary shake up of the automotive market since the car replaced the horse as our preferred form of personal transportation back in the early 1900s. Then, as now, drivers faced the same decision of choosing petrol or electric power for their cars, and carmakers offered both options.

EV Sales 1

As it turned out, the rapid expansion of our interstate road system outpaced the electrification of rural America, paving the way for petroleum to take the lead in widespread availability, and to largely squeeze electrics out of the car market. Fast forward a hundred years: America is now wired from coast to coast, and advances in battery technology have made it possible for electric vehicles to perform competitively with gas and diesel models.

But more importantly, environmental concerns have become an important factor in determining our fuel of choice, fostering the second coming of the electric vehicle.

Now EV sales, including both plug-in hybrids and pure battery electrics, are surging beyond the early adopter and novelty stage, rising 46.5% in 2022 and 53.8% in 2023, achieving a record 9% of the total car market last year. After such rapid growth, some moderation was expected, but are EV sales really falling as headlines proclaim?

The short answer is no. While growth has slowed, plug-in vehicles still grew 17% in the first quarter of 2024, increasing their market share further as overall car sales rose only 5%.

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JOHN O’DONNELL: “There’s a lot of articles and media suggesting that we’ve already reached a plateau for EV sales, and that’s false, that’s incorrect. The rate of adoption is slowing, but it’s still increasing nationwide. State by state, it varies.The coasts, east and west coasts, have the higher penetration. The center of the country is adopting at a more slow rate, but make no mistake, this is not going away simply because somebody wrote an article.”

Another trend we’ve noticed is that consumers’ preferred type of EV is shifting. For all of 2023, about 80% of EVs sold were pure battery electric. But plug-in gasoline-electric hybrid sales are growing, and currently make up a quarter of total EV sales.

When faced with the EV market’s three-headed conundrum: limited number of affordable battery electric choices, fear of range anxiety, and a public charging infrastructure that’s still a work in progress, many buyers see plug in hybrids as a safe near-term bridge to eventually going all-electric. And that shift is now forecast to widen for the foreseeable future, as manufacturers release more new PHEVs into the market.

EV Sales

JOHN O’DONNELL: “Consumer affordability is always on our minds, representing the people who sell the cars, but it’s also on the mind of the state, local and federal governments. They know that they need to help us balance the amount of technology, which costs money through research and development, and what the average consumer can afford.”

The good news for consumers is that EV prices are already coming down, and, with dozens of new electric vehicles of all types expected to enter the market over the next 18 months, there is little doubt that such increased competition will cause EV prices to moderate even further. Thus, most market experts are still conservatively predicting EVs to pass the 12% market share point for all of 2024, and 15%, or over 2 million new EVs on the road, in 2025.

Add to that continuing improvements in driving range and charging infrastructure, and the future of EVs in America is still quite bright. American consumers are smart enough to question the naysayers. They know that the time is finally right for the electric automobile to come into its own. It’s not only the best thing for the environment, it just makes good driving sense.