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.
Celebrating 75 Years of Porsche
Porsche builds incredibly fun-to-drive automobiles! And for 43 seasons, we’ve spent as much of our time driving them as possible. Well, this year Porsche is celebrating its own 75 years of motoring excellence, and when we were invited to a round-up of many of their most amazing efforts…how could we possibly say no?
ALEX KELLUM: I used to think introducing a brand-new Porsche model was hard. After all, what can I say that hasn’t already been said? But then I realized, for the very same reason, it’s easy to introduce them. One mention of the name ‘Porsche’ and their legacy sorta speaks for itself.
And that legacy is what led me across the “Big Drink” to Stuttgart, Germany, to help celebrate an important birthday and milestone for Porsche.
75 years, as a matter of fact. So, I got the invite, you’re the plus-one. Let’s go back in time to drive some of Porsche’s greatest hits.
And what better way to start the day than with two 911’s? I left the grounds of Porsche’s secret storage facility in this not-so-stealthy rear-engine prototype: a 1992 911 Carrera 2 Coupe Clubsport.
It was made to slot in between the Carrera 2 and Carrera RS. That means motorsports-oriented, yet completely street legal. So, while it added front bucket seats and ditched the rears, it still kept some creature comforts like air conditioning. Even for a hand-built prototype, the Carrera 2 Clubsport was solid.
“This thing is just a treat to drive. If this is how I’m starting the day, I can’t wait to see what’s next.”
Unfortunately, it never saw production.
So, I followed it up with one that did, albeit just 189 units: The Carrera 3.2 Coupe Clubsport.
This one does forgo amenities like AC, and power windows, and even the passenger sun visor for maximum weight-savings. Lighter engine components too, for a 6,840 RPM redline that, along with lower suspension and a limited-slip diff, crafted a truly tethered driving experience.
“The sounds of shifting the gears…all the bumps in the road. You can feel every little bit. But it’s not…it’s not unbearable. I mean, that’s what you want in a car like this anyway. You want to feel, and hear, and smell and, well, probably not taste; but, you wanna feel all the feels.”
As fun and historically significant as these Carreras were, the 911 is just the most obvious layer of Porsche’s history. Digging deeper meant a late morning cruise in this 356 Super 90.
This thing was old-school cool, sporting an air-cooled 4-cylinder boxer making a carbureted 90 horsepower, give or take.
My hour behind the wheel gave credence to the 911’s origins. The Super 90 gracefully blended driver’s engagement with a surprising sense of comfort, putting me at ease while strolling between pockets of civilization.
And then it was time to kick things up a notch: this 1988 Porsche 959. The 959 became Porsche’s technological benchmark when it first launched, thanks in part to its 444 horsepower biturbo boxer-six powering an electronically-controlled all-wheel drive system. Combined with the iconic aerodynamic styling and the 80’s sci-fi-esque cabin, I was starstruck.
“You know, we come all the way out here and we talk about legacy, right? You know, we’re talking about the history of this brand and the evolution of it and what it means to have the Porsche crest proudly stamped on the hood or anywhere else on the car. And, while there are a lot of great examples of that here, the 959 is certainly up there.”
After the 959, there was one more I just had to check out: this 944 Turbo Cabriolet. The front-engine 944 has always had a special place in my heart, if not for most Porsche-files. A boxy exterior that screams 80’s performance accented by the coolest thing ever made…pop-up headlights. Jokes aside, to me, the 944 is the still-attainable classic Porsche, so experiencing one for myself was a dream come true. As was the case with just about everything else I drove that day. Icons, bucket-listers, mold-breakers. Each one, undeniably, a true Porsche.
And after a day spent with all of them, all I can really say is, if this is what Porsche has accomplished after 75 years, I can’t wait to see what they do at 100.