CHICAGO | Todd Dore is an early adapter -- very early. Rather than wait for consumer-friendly all-electric cars to hit the market, he converted his 2001 Volkswagen Beetle in 2008 after the engine burned out on the expressway.
"There are a couple of mechanics in the area who are familiar with converted electric vehicles," Dore said. "But for the most part, I did it myself with a fair amount of assistance from other club members."
Dore belongs to the Fox Valley Electric Auto Association, formed in 1975 to promote electric vehicle use.
When he drives downtown from North Riverside, he plugs in his car at a garage right across from his office. While his new lithium batteries allow for a 80- to 100-mile range, he likes to keep a full charge in case he has to run errands after work. Plus, InterPark garages offer recharging for free.
"People who are working downtown, they have a solution," said Jim Doria, senior vice president of InterPark Inc. "They can plug in and know that they'll have enough charge to get back home."
InterPark operates 12 garages in downtown Chicago that are equipped with electric car charging stations. The plug-ins are part of an eco-friendly push by the company that includes energy-efficient lighting, paperless billing and greenery planted in and around the parking structures.
Aside from InterPark garages, only two public charging stations are available in Chicago at the Lake Shore Aqua Station and Millennium Park Garage.
Outside of the city, charging stations become even more scarce, with only six other locations in Illinois. The state still lands in the top five, however, with a third of the nation plug-in free and only California having more than 50 stations.
While public charging options are slim outside of downtown, Chicagoans haven't let that deter them from jumping onto the bandwagon.
"We have about 19 people that have preordered the (Chevrolet Volt)," said John Downs, sales manager at Grossinger City Chevrolet in Lincoln Park. "They've already left deposits and color configurations. We're just waiting to start taking delivery of those vehicles."
Downs said he hopes to see the Volt arrive in Chicago within the next nine to 10 months. And Nissan's all-electric Leaf is expected in the city this summer, according to a spokesman with Mid City Nissan. The Volt starts at about $33,000, and the Leaf at $25,000, after a $7,500 federal rebate for the cars.
"We're all anxiously anticipating the arrival in Chicago, of these cars," said Dore, who has a reservation for a Leaf and is also on the waiting list for a Volt.
For those who just can't wait to go electric, there's always the option of converting their cars.
"For the more mechanically inclined, we encourage them to convert a car," Dore said. "I made an investment last year in buying lithium batteries. I can now compete, from a range standpoint, with a Nissan Leaf."