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How Did A Small Illinois Town End Up With 300 Plug-In Cars?

 

Don't let the name fool you; Normal, Illinois, is actually unique.

That's because this small town--with a population of 53,837--has more than 300 plug-in cars roaming its streets. And that's because the town, along with neighboring Bloomington, has made a concerted effort to encourage the adoption of electric cars.

Dubbed EV Town, the initiative includes electric-car purchase incentives, and an aggressive effort by the local government and businesses to develop charging infrastructure.

In addition to Federal and state incentives, new plug-in cars registered in Normal are eligible for a tax rebate equivalent to 1 percent of the town's 7.75 percent sales tax.

One car dealer took things a step further. Earlier this year, O'Brien Mitsubishi offered a lease of $69 a month for 24 months on a Mitsubishi i-MiEV, significantly undercutting Mitsubishi's official lease of $249 a month for 36 months.

The Mitsubishi i-MiEV is a common sight in Normal, which is home to the Mitsubishi plant that produces a gasoline model from the Japanese maker.

Normal used federal grant money to buy 48 240-Volt Level 2 charging stations and one DC quick-charging station, which uses the CHAdeMO standard.

In addition to the town-owned stations, Normal also leases four of Tesla Motors' Supercharger quick-charging stations from Tesla Motors.

These public stations are currently free to access; Normal officials believe the cost of maintaining a system for accepting payments isn't justified by the relatively small number of cars using the stations. If demand increases, drivers may have to start paying to recharge,

As a matter of policy, the local government also waives the electric permit fee for all charging stations installed in the town.

Why the focus on electric cars? Normal officials believe even a small amount of plug-in cars can make a bigger impact in a small town than they can in a big city. With enough incentives, they just might.

When it comes to promoting electric cars, perhaps other municipalities could benefit from being more Normal.

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