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Nissan Leaf blows into Chicago area this fall

Gov. PQuinn appeared with Nissan announce first only all-electric zero-emissivehicles for mass market sobe available Illinois.  Quinn shows off

Gov. Pat Quinn appeared with Nissan to announce the first and only all-electric, zero-emission vehicles for the mass market, and soon to be available in Illinois. Quinn shows off the electric connector. | Al Podgorski~Chicago Sun-Times

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Updated: November 4, 2011 10:23AM

Nissan was so impressed by the number of car-charging stations around town that the Japanese automaker moved up by a year its schedule to roll out electric cars here.

They had not planned to release the new electric Leaf car here until next fall. Now they are scheduled to get here in October. Already, 750 locals have put down deposits on the $35,000 car.

Gov. Quinn test-drove a car at the Field Museum on Thursday and pledged to have 240 more charging stations erected around the state by the end of the year. So far there are roughly 150 charging stations in the Chicago area.

Chicago-based Carbon Day Automotive Drivers has supplied 150 charging stations in public and private places throughout the Chicago area. region and intends to install an additional 350 by the end of the year. California-based 350Green has a contract to install 280 charging stations this year, with a half dozen open so far.

“We want to be the electric vehicle capital of the United States,” Quinn said, adding he wants to make Interstate 55 into a “Land of Lincoln Electric Highway from Chicago to Springfield” with charging stations along the way.

The state already gives a $4,000 tax break to Illinoisans who buy an electric car. That’s on top of a $7,500 federal tax credit.

That brings the price of the Leaf down to $23,500.

Considering the electric equivalent of a tank of gas is about $4, compared to $60 or so to fill a 15-gallon-tank car with $4-a-gallon gas, the car could pay for itself.

The trade-off is a fully-charged lithium car battery will get the car only 100 miles or so before it needs a recharge.

A read-out on the dashboard tells the driver how many more miles the car can go, and even gives a map with a range of how much further the care can travel.

Quinn took a test-drive of the car and said afterward, “It was very smooth. The car has a lot of pep. It’s very, very quiet. There are very few moving parts so less things break down.”

Interested drivers can sign up for test drives themselves at the museum this weekend at

State and city officials have an incentive to put up charging stations because this first-of-its-kind mass-produced zero-emissions, all-electric car — and others that might follow from other car companies — because they will improve air quality.

Even if it’s coal-fire plants powering the electicity that fuels the car, the impact on the environment will be less, said Nissan Senior Vice President Scott Becker.

Leafs coming to Chicago in October have been made in Japan. But construction will be completed next year on a Nissan plant in Tennessee which will manufacture Leafs and the lithium batteries that power them. So far, about 6,000 Leafs have been sold in America.

Becker praised Quinn and Mayor Emanuel for doing everything local government can do to help put infrastructure in place for the car.

To try to get Quinn to sign a bill allowing a casino in Chicago, Emanuel has promised Quinn he will use taxes generated by the casino to erect 100 more charging stations and purchase 70 at least partially electric-fueled trucks for the city.

But Quinn said he is still holding out for changes in the casino bill to better guard against organized crime infiltration.

And even though ComEd had officials on-hand for Thursday’s roll-out, Quinn still promised to veto a bill that would let the utility hike its rates.

“They want to hike rates,” Quinn said after the event. “Their service quality could improve, quite frankly. This summer has not been a good year for Com Ed service quality. I don’t think any consumers in this region feel they’re top-notch in that department.”

Charging stations can take a few hours or as fast as 30 minutes to re-charge an electric car battery. Most consumers by a 240-volt charge for their homes to recharge their cars overnight, Becker said.

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