Some suburbs, Kane County join program to become 'EV ready'
Over a dozen local municipalities are teaming up with ComEd to develop electric vehicle-friendly policy as part of an EV readiness program launched earlier this year, the electric utility company and the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus announced Wednesday.
The 16 communities -- which include Aurora, Chicago, Deer Park, Geneva, Hampshire, Kane County and Skokie -- will receive training and assistance to prepare for a growing demand for EVs and their respective chargers. Organizers say developing local, EV-minded policy is vital in preparing for both residents and potential visitors who drive electric.
"Anyone who's been paying attention of late knows that the growth of electric vehicles is not only impressive, but it's becoming more and more popular," said Mayor Kevin Burns of Geneva. "Developing the infrastructure and the policies necessary to welcome those who drive the vehicle is critical."
Burns also leads the Environment Committee of the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, a membership organization of 275 cities, towns and villages that developed a Climate Action Plan for the Chicago area last year -- one of the first regional climate plans in the nation.
Developed by the caucus over the course of nearly three years, the EV readiness program will offer training programs and technical assistance to guide cities and towns completing a checklist of steps that will help make their community better prepared to support EVs.
"Participating in this cohort, my community is on the forefront of creating an environment that better and more broadly serves the changing nature of transportation," Burns said. "That's a good thing because (EV readiness) ties in well with not only environmental initiatives at the local level; it ties in with economic initiatives. It ties in with convenience. It ties in with inclusion. It ties in with all the elements that every community likes to put on their chest and say, 'We are proud of this.'"
The checklist -- created over the course of half a year among local government staff members, EV charging station companies and environmental organizations -- consists of over 100 actions. As they complete the goals, municipalities will be awarded the distinctions of bronze, silver or gold EV readiness.
"There's a lot of difficult things to do in the checklist, but there are also some easy ones that really help create a strong EV ecosystem in our region," said Edith Makra, the caucus' director of environmental initiatives.
The checklist covers areas such as municipal vehicles, zoning and planning, EV owner rights and access to parking. The intensity of the tasks range from updating local permitting and inspection regulations to make sure they're more conducive to the installation of chargers, to making sure there's an electric vehicle landing page of a community's website.
"For municipalities, we have seen that there is a lot of excitement about this transition," said Philip Roy, the director of external affairs at ComEd. "But there is support that is needed to help municipalities in our region take concrete steps to demonstrate to their residents and to their businesses ... that they are ready to make this transition safely and effectively."
Roy added that the program is looking to launch a second cohort of communities in the summer or fall of next year. A full list of current towns, which each applied to participate and were selected by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus, can be found on the caucus website.
• Jenny Whidden is a Report For America corps member covering climate change and the environment for the Daily Herald. To help support her work with a tax-deductible donation, see http://dailyherald.com/rfa.