Charging stations for electric vehicles

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How it's done: Kevin Kirkham, manager of business development for NIPSCO, charges an electric vehicle at one of the EV charging stations at the utility company in Merrillville. NIPSCO offers a program to install such charging stations to its commercial/industrial electric customers across northern Indiana. | Photo by Mary Compton

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Range anxiety. Electric car owners feel it as they wonder how far they’ll need to go before they find a place to plug in their car to juice it up, and if they’ll even get there in time.

NIPSCO and South Shore Clean Cities are working together to try to relieve that anxiety in Northwest Indiana by making it easier and more affordable for businesses, universities and other organizations to install public EV-charging stations on their sites for their customers, employees and students through NIPSCO’s IN-Charge Around Town EV Program.

The pilot program, which is available to NIPSCO commercial/industrial electric customers across northern Indiana through Jan. 31, 2015, offers incentives to help with the upfront costs of installing Level II and Level III charging stations and the software subscriptions needed.

This is the second alternative fuel program NIPSCO has launched over the past two years. In 2012, the utility began a home charging station incentive program. Participants in the NIPSCO IN-Charge at Home Program receive a credit of up to $1,650 for the installation of a residential electric vehicle Level II charger, and free charging between 10 p.m. and 6 a.m. daily.

NIPSCO works with South Shore Clean Cities to administer both programs, NIPSCO spokeswoman Kathleen Szot said.

”South Shore Clean Cities brings great local expertise and knowledge of alternative fuels to the program,” Szot said.

NIPSCO gathered market research before the program was launched to determine where it makes the most sense to offer public charging stations. As a result, it was decided that 25 percent of the incentive money go to universities and work places, 25 percent to major transportation corridors, 20 percent to commercial and retail, 15 percent to governmental public areas, 5 percent to multifamily housing complexes and 10 percent to contingency.

Under the program, each business or organization can receive up to two free Level II ChargePoint charging stations with installation cost discounted at 50 percent, up to $3,000, or one Level III fast-charging station at 50 percent of equipment and installation costs, up to $37,500. Each station also comes with a two-year software agreement.

“Level II stations take four to six hours to charge a car. They’re probably a better fit for businesses that expect people to be there a longer time, such as universities or work places,” Szot said.

Level III station can charge a car in about 30 minutes. “This is good for quick in and out retail centers,” Szot said.

She said each Level II station offered through this program can charge two cars at a time and can be used for both battery electric and plug-in hybrid cars.

“The stations are meant to be made available to the general public. It will be up to the owner to decide if there will be a charge to use them and what that cost would be,” Szot said.

NIPSCO has an EV-charging station at its Merrillville headquarters that is open to the public, as well as stations at NIPSCO’s local operating offices in Hammond, Crown Point and Valparaiso.

Szot said the charging stations being offered are manufactured by ChargePoint, a well-known name among electric vehicle owners.

“Most electric vehicle owners are savvy with finding charging stations. ChargePoint has an app that can be downloaded to your phone so you can find the charging station closest to you,” Szot said.

For every unit of electricity used by IN-Charge Around Town charging stations during the pilot program, NIPSCO will buy an equivalent amount of renewable energy certificates. RECs are the environmental attributes associated with electricity that is generated from renewable sources, such as wind power.

IN-Charge Around Town will be offered on a first-come, first-serve basis until the program budget is exhausted or until Jan. 31, 2015, whichever comes first. It’s being offered as part of a Supplemental Environmental Project under the NIPSCO New Source Review NOV settlement.

Interested businesses can begin the process by completing the IN-Charge Around Town Program application available at www.NIPSCO.com/INCHARGE or by calling (855) 500-6477.