EVmatch Uses Prize Money to Install New EV Chargers in Chicago Neighborhoods

Back of the Yards receives first public EV charger, hosted by Plant Chicago

CHICAGO, Sept. 27, 2021 EVmatch, the first electric vehicle (EV) charging platform for connecting EV drivers with nearby private chargers through a reservation-based system, has two new publicly-available level 2 charging stations located at Plant Chicago, 4459 S Marshfield Avenue in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. As the charging station host, Plant Chicago listed its chargers on EVmatch to make driving EVs easier for community members – whether it’s neighbors of Back of the Yards, many of whom rent or live-in multi-family housing without a reliable place to charge, or other Chicagoans visiting the neighborhood in electric cars and needing a spot to charge up.

EVs in Illinois

Electric vehicles are gaining popularity in Illinois. Over 30,000 are registered in the state today, double the number on the road in 2019, and it is projected there will be between 600,000 and 2.2 million EVs in Illinois by 2030. Today almost every major automobile company is selling or preparing electric vehicles tailored to consumer needs – from electric Mustangs and Hummers to pickup trucks and SUVs – more models and styles (both plug-in and full battery electric) are coming out every year. Illinois also hosts a significant transportation electrification workforce. For example, Rivian in Central Illinois is making 100% battery-powered electric pickup trucks, and EVBox in Northern Illinois manufactures charging stations. Likewise, Lion Electric is breaking ground on an electric school bus and truck factory in Joliet this fall. Jobs in electric transportation and EV infrastructure are expected to grow 83% by 2024 and will provide a significant boost to the state’s economy, especially with the passage of the Climate and Equitable Jobs Act on September 16, 2021.

In general, people like driving electric and save money driving electric. EVs are quiet, produce zero tailpipe emissions, and have lower maintenance costs than their gasoline counterparts.  While EVs are becoming more affordable and play a critical part in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, not everyone can feasibly drive electric. Many people, especially in a dense city like Chicago, don’t have a dedicated parking space with a place to charge their car – at home, work, or other destinations on their route – which creates a significant barrier to EV usage.

Charging in Chicago

Plant Chicago’s chargers are part of an initiative being spearheaded by Vanessa Perkins with Community Charging Initiative – a local Chicago volunteer project to increase EV charging access – and EVmatch. The community charging pilot in Chicago is funded by the Keeling Curve Prize for Global Warming Mitigation, awarded to EVmatch in the summer of 2020.

Two new Level 2 charging stations at Plant Chicago’s office located at 4459 S Marshfield Avenue in Chicago’s Back of the Yards neighborhood. Make a reservation to use one of the chargers on the EVmatch app. Chargers are available every day. Check Plant Chicago’s website or the EVmatch app for full schedule. Photo Credit: Plant Chicago

“EVmatch is excited to distribute funds from the Keeling Curve Prize to expand our community-based EV charging network in Chicago’s urban residential communities, especially those with limited affordable public charging options” founder and CEO Heather Hochrein said. “This prize money will go to local businesses and nonprofit organizations like Plant Chicago to pay for charging hardware and installation services, and then they’ll be able to make those chargers available to the public and recover electricity costs through our EVmatch software.”

“Much of Chicago is very underserved in terms of easy-access, affordable, and publicly available charging infrastructure. Outside of the downtown area, paid parking garages, and some Northside communities, there’s very limited public EV infrastructure. Chicago also has a high percentage of renters and apartment dwellers, and we saw an opportunity to leverage local community businesses and houses of worship in neighborhoods that will really benefit from having a Level 2 (240 Volt) charging station that’s affordable and available to the public through a reservation-based system for optimized sharing.”

Vanessa Perkins leads Community Charging Initiative, which supports access to affordable and reliable charging by leveraging existing infrastructure and the sharing economy. She was excited to collaborate on the Keeling Curve grant project and find so much support for building a community charging pilot.

Vanessa spent a year researching the distribution of public EV charging infrastructure in Chicago and the opportunity for a peer-to-peer charging model in Chicago’s urban residential neighborhoods. As a used EV owner and apartment dweller (with street parking only), Vanessa’s research was inspired by the challenge of finding affordable and reliable charging near her home and work (the only chargers near Vanessa’s home and work were solely for Tesla drivers). Through a fellowship with Environmental Entrepreneurs (E2), Vanessa surveyed neighborhood sites (community centers, small businesses, houses of worship, etc.) to determine whether neighborhood organizations would be interested in hosting a level 2 commercial EV charger. Many property owners expressed interest in installing chargers at their parking lots to support electric vehicles as long as they had extra parking spaces, but they also expressed concerns over installation and hosting costs, as well as the need for access control, cost recovery, pricing flexibility, and reservations.

Vanessa found that the EVmatch app helped solve many of these issues and teamed up with the charging network to build a community charging pilot with the Keeling Curve grant.

Charging the Community

The installation was made possible with the experience and technical expertise of Chicago-based BIG CLEAN POWER, LLC, a worker collective incubated by Blacks in Green (BIG, NFP) and its affiliate Green Power Alliance to connect trade professionals to clean energy business deals.

Each EVmatch-powered charger (32 amps) is connected to the building’s existing electrical panel. Often, commercial buildings have enough electrical capacity to add one or two Level 2 chargers, which was the case with Plant Chicago, making for a safe, cost-effective retrofit. The photos above capture some of the steps in the design. Photo credit AMB Renewables and W. Terry Electric.

Blacks in Green founder Naomi Davis is a leading advocate in environmental justice and energy equity and in the development of sustainable-square-mile neighborhoods, their signature initiative.  These walkable villages are designed to grow economies in energy, housing, tourism, and horticulture, beginning with their West Woodlawn pilot.

Through its Green Power Alliance, BIG has assembled a team of subject matter experts, contractors, professionals, and community residents to encourage electric vehicle stations on the South Side, facilitating connections with local professionals such as Arthur Burton of AMB Renewables and Wendell Terry of W. Terry Electric, members of that cohort.

EVmatch, Plant Chicago, and the Community Charging Initiative are pleased to have partnered with BIG, Blacks in Green in identifying energy conscious contractors to perform the installations.

BIG considers this an important step in its goal of walkable communities, moving away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy on all levels. It is encouraging and partnering with other organizations on decarbonization efforts, solar energy installations and other conservation and sustainable community initiatives. BIG is also in the process of installing a new EV charging station at its Green Living Room headquarters in West Woodlawn.

Terry and Burton collaborated to design and install the level 2 commercial EV chargers at Plant Chicago on an electrical team led by Terry, a master electrician and certified EV installer.

“We understand the cause and effect of fossil fuel on our environment. As an energy efficiency service provider, we believe that carbon footprints must be reduced to have a sustainable climate and see how electric vehicles play a role here as well. AMB Renewable Energy Inc. is extremely excited about the opportunity to install electrical vehicle infrastructure in Chicago. This opportunity BIG CLEAN POWER provides will allow us to grow our business, support neighborhood outreach, and create clean energy jobs within our community,” said Arthur Burton, managing director.

As a Chicago-based minority-owned business with over 40 years’ experience in the industry, W. Terry Electric LLC has been a witness to the evolution of consumer preferences in response to an increasing consciousness around the importance of sustainable energy consumption.  In the words of Wendell Terry, “EV charging stations are an entrée for communities to help reduce CO2 emissions as the use of electrical vehicles will lead to cleaner and healthier cities.  We recognize that the demand for more EV charging stations and larger sized charging stations capable of accommodating more vehicles will only increase.”  W. Terry Electric looks forward to the opportunity to serve this increasing demand.

Terry and Burton share BIG’s goal of mentoring a 21st century workforce to build and sustain world class infrastructure for black communities and providing on-the-job training for all neighbors interested in studying electrical installation and service.

Community Charging Host: Plant Chicago

Plant Chicago’s mission is to cultivate local circular economies. They envision a paradigm shift in production, consumption, and waste at the local level, generating equity and economic opportunity for all residents. Located in a former firehouse on the southwest side of Chicago, Plant Chicago has renovated the space to become a center for collaborative economic practices, educational programming, communal farming, and nontraditional retail. As a demonstration site for urban sustainability, the shared-use model of the community EV charging pilot resonated with the team. These two publicly-accessible electric vehicle chargers are the first to be built in the Back of the Yards neighborhood. The area is part of Chicago’s EV charging desert and also a region which has historically suffered from poor air quality and environmental pollution. The community-based EV charging model, as well as the opportunity to work with the local minority-owned business, AMB Renewable Energy, aligned directly with Plant Chicago’s mission and values. Executive Director Jonathan Pereira is excited to continue working with the installation crew to design and install rooftop solar later this year.

Update: Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408) signed into law on September 16th, 2021.

The Illinois Climate and Equitable Jobs Act (SB2408) was signed into law on September 16, 2021. The bill will impact the state’s transportation sector by creating rebates for electric vehicles and charging infrastructure – great news for clean transportation! In addition to a $4,000 incentive for EV purchases (on top of the federal incentive), the law requires the state and utilities to fund infrastructure (up to 80% of installation cost for projects paying prevailing wage). Further, utilities will be required to spend a significant amount of these funds on make-ready infrastructure in environmental justice and low-income communities – stakeholders who can benefit from EVs the most. The Illinois Commerce Commission will set parameters for utilities between Nov 2021 and April 2022 and utilities will have to submit their plans on what they are going to spend the money on by July 1, 2022. Stay tuned on this exciting new policy!

Update: More Community Chargers!

Check out our other community chargers by using the EVmatch app!

Excited about the chargers at Plant Chicago in the Back of the Yards? Check out the other community chargers with our hosts at St John’s Episcopal Church (3857 N Kostner Ave in Irving Park) and Meeting Tomorrow (4763 N Manor Ave in East Albany Park)! Check them out and make a charging reservation here for St John’s and here for Meeting Tomorrow. And soon, St Paul & the Redeemer Church will be up and charging in Hyde Park!

More Information:

Are you interested in hosting or using a community charger?

Contact: communitycharging@gmail.com or EVmatch at support@evmatch.com.

EVmatch is a California-based, female-led technology company aimed at increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption by making charging easy, reliable, and accessible to all. EVmatch operates a nationwide peer-to-peer EV charging network that enables individuals and business owners to rent out private charging stations, earning money and supporting their communities. The EVmatch app is available for download in the Google Play and Apple App stores, and at www.evmatch.com.

If you are interested in charging at Plant Chicago, check availability and make a reservation right here, and use EVMATCH5 to receive $5 of free EVmatch charging credit.

Are you interested in learning more about BIG CLEAN POWER, LLC, the Green Power Alliance and the work of Blacks in Green (BIG, NFP)?

Contact: naomidavis@blacksingreen.org

BIG, NFP is author of The 8 Principles of Green-Village-Building™, The 12 Propositions of Grannynomics™, and the Sustainable Square Mile Handbook™.  They are an environmental economic development organization serving as a bridge and catalyst among communities and their stakeholders in the design and development of green, self-sustaining, mixed-income, walkable-villages within black neighborhoods.  Their goal is: every black household can walk-to-work, walk-to-shop, walk-to-learn, walk-to-play, neighbor dollars circulate locally to fertilize their self-interests, and greenhouse gases are reduced.

Are you interested in connecting with our experienced design and installation team to assist with a quote or site design? 

AMB Renewables: http://ambrenewable.com/

Contact: Arthur Burton at a.burton@sbcglobal.net

W. Terry Electric LLC

Contact: Wendell Terry wrterry1@comcast.net or Stacey McIlvaine Staceymcilvaine@gmail.com

Licensed Supervising Electrician, City of Chicago

Certified EV Charger Installer, Illinois Commerce Commission

Are you interested in learning more about Plant Chicago?

Contact: Finley Barnes at info@plantchicago.org

Plant Chicago was established in 2011 as the anchor for the project known as The Plant, a collaborative community of food businesses on the southwest side of Chicago. For eight years, Plant Chicago supported the ever-evolving project and brought tangible benefits to the surrounding community.  We are now in the process of renovating an abandoned firehouse as a center for circular economy programming in the Back of the Yards neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago.

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