- Associated Press - Thursday, January 15, 2015

MERRILLVILLE, Ind. (AP) - Change often comes slowly, then suddenly all at once.

A few years ago, there was nowhere in Northwest Indiana to plug in an electric car except for your garage. Now drivers can pull into public charging stations along Indianapolis Boulevard and U.S. 30, and they’re spreading fast.

The number of public charging stations for electric vehicles in Northwest Indiana is poised to more than double in 2015, NIPSCO spokesman Nick Meyer said. The Merrillville-based electric utility has 24 charging stations at 18 sites so far, but more than 50 customers have signed up to put charging stations in public places.

“We’ve seen fairly steady growth,” he told The Times in Munster (https://bit.ly/1BcrENo ).

“Hospitals, parks and most of the universities have expressed interest. They’ve been looking at it in larger industrial areas, at Kohl’s in Valparaiso, Wicker Park and the Munster hospital. The town of Chesterton has expressed interest.”

Charging stations are also at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond, Whiting Lakefront Park, BMW Schererville, Southlake Nissan in Hobart, the Lighthouse Premium Outlet Mall in Michigan City and Bob Rohrman Nissan in Burns Harbor.

Electric cars have been around since the 19th century but have only really started to pick up speed toward becoming a mass-market product in the last few years because of advancements in battery technology, a rejection of the excess of gas guzzlers in some quarters of society, and a push by the United States government to reduce dependence on foreign oil.

As gas prices have fallen, many have warned electric cars would lose their spark, predicting drivers would be unwilling to pony up more for costly lithium ion battery technology when gasoline was so cheap. But gas won’t stay less than $2 a gallon forever, and electric cars have gained momentum.

Stock in Elon Musk’s Tesla Motors, which traded for as little as $32.91 a share in 2013, reached $279.20 a share last year, though it’s come back down a bit since then. U.S. car buyers bought 119,710 plug-in vehicles last year, a 23 percent jump over the previous year, according to market researcher InsideEVs.com

Electric cars still make up a tiny part of the overall market, but sales have skyrocketed by 128 percent since 2012. Tesla and most major automakers offer electric vehicles now, and the Nissan Leaf, which retails for around $29,000, topped the heap by selling 30,200 units last year.

U.S. drivers bought a record 12,874 electric vehicles in December, and sales are expected to accelerate as charging stations become more prevalent.

Purdue University Calumet in Hammond installed two new electric vehicle charging stations as part of an ongoing sustainability initiative. The south station is east of Woodmar Avenue and south of 173rd Street, west of the Fitness and Recreation Center, while the north station is east of Woodmar and south of 168th Street, east of the Anderson Building.

Both stations are free and available on a first-come, first-served basis. Charging a car typically takes hours, so users are encouraged to not hog the ports.

“With the installation of these EV charging stations, Purdue University Calumet has taken another step in greening our campus and demonstrating the university’s commitment to sustainability initiatives,” said Paul Pratt, Purdue Calumet associate director of facilities engineering.

“These charging stations broaden transportation choices available to students, faculty and staff interested in reducing their environmental foot print while saving on fuel costs.”

Purdue Calumet installed the charging stations through NIPSCO’s IN-Charge around Town EV Program, which offers an incentive of as much as 50 percent of equipment and installation costs, up to $37,500. Residential customers also can qualify for incentives for installing electric vehicle chargers in their garages.

Anyone who’s interested in the program should visit www.nipsco.com/incharge.


Information from: The Times, https://www.thetimesonline.com

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