Ameren Ready to Charge EVs

Ameren ready to charge electric vehicles whenever the public is ready to drive them

URBANA — Ameren Illinois says its system is ready to charge electric vehicles whenever the public is ready to drive them.

With gas prices hovering around $3.50 a gallon, that time may come sooner than later.Ameren ready to charge electric vehicles whenever the public is ready to drive them

To help make the point, the utility brought a Mitsubishi electric vehicle to Urbana on Tuesday to help acquaint Ameren employees and the general public with the car’s potential. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV, not yet sold in the North American market, can travel up to 85 miles between charges.On average, it would cost Ameren Illinois customers less than a dollar to recharge the car after 40 miles of use and less than $2 after 80 miles of use, said Ameren Illinois spokesman Leigh Morris. Conventional gasoline-powered vehicles would take one or more gallons of gas to go 40 miles, and perhaps three gallons to go 80 miles. At current prices, it would cost about $10.50 at the pump to go the latter distance.

Because of the limited driving distance between charges, the i-MiEV is not for everybody, Morris said. “It’s suited for someone who does urban-type driving,” he said. Morris said the car is among several electric vehicles in or entering the market. In addition to battery electric vehicles such as the i-MiEV and the Nissan Leaf, there are plug-in hybrid electric vehicles such as the Chevy Volt, which can operate solely on electricity for up to 40 miles.Then there are hybrid electric vehicles, such as the Ford Fusion Hybrid and Toyota Prius. Those are powered by a battery pack and an internal combustion engine. The battery pack, charged by the vehicle, is the sole source of power for low speeds, while the gasoline engine is used at higher speeds.

For folks considering buying a plug-in electric vehicle, there are three types of charging:

They can use a standard 120-volt outlet, using the plug and cord that comes with the vehicle. The low voltage means the car will need 10 to 12 hours of charging if the battery module is depleted.

They can use a 240-volt circuit and a charging station. A home charging station would cost $1,500 to $3,000, depending on the work required for installation, Morris said. Charging time at such a station would be about six hours.

They could use 480-volt circuits at commercial and public charging stations. Charging times at those places are expected to be as little as 30 minutes.

Morris said customers considering buying an electric vehicle should contact Ameren Illinois. The utility will assess service to the home or business at no cost, and if necessary, make upgrades. That doesn’t include wiring within the home, he said. The Mitsubishi i-MiEV that Ameren Illinois is taking on tour is a European version. The car has seating for four and is powered by lithium-ion batteries. Mitsubishi has announced it will begin selling the car’s North American version in selected states in November, with an Illinois rollout in March 2012. The vehicle is expected to cost about $30,000, but a federal tax credit of $7,500 and a state tax credit of $4,000 could bring down the consumer’s final cost.

While the initial cost of an electric car tends to be relatively high, fuel and maintenace costs tend to be low. Morris said there are no sparkplugs and no oil or transmission fluid to change. “There’s an incredibly small amount of maintenance versus what you have with a gasoline-powered vehicle,” he said.

Ameren Illinois employee Jenifer Hagen said she drove the i-MiEV at top speeds of 50 to 55 mph, which fall within the most efficient, economical range for the car. Morris said the car could go much faster if needed.

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