Polo taking part in first EV Readiness Program cohort

Program ‘will help communities streamline policies, implement best practices’ related to preparing for expected influx of electric vehicles

An electric vehicle charging station is pictured outside of the Illinois State Capitol Complex in Springfield.

POLO — Polo is participating in an initiative to help local governments prepare to meet a growing demand for electric vehicles and EV charging infrastructure.

The city is one of 16 members of the EV Readiness Program’s inaugural cohort. The program, which was launched earlier this year by the Metropolitan Mayors Caucus and ComEd, “will help communities streamline policies and implement best practices for safe and effective regional transportation electrification,” according to a press release on MayorsCaucus.org.

“We’d like to set the standard for the little towns,” Polo Alderperson Beth Sundman told fellow city council members during their Dec. 5 meeting. “We want to be a leader in an area and show everybody else that this can be done in a town this size.”

Municipalities in the cohort range in population from Polo’s 2,291 to Chicago’s 2,746,388.

According to the 2020 census, Polo, Deer Park, University Park, Hampshire and Glencoe each have fewer than 9,000 residents; Richton Park’s population is 12,775. Geneva, Darien, Maywood, Hanover Park, Carol Stream, Oak Park and Skokie each have between 21,000 and 68,000 residents. Aurora’s population is 180,542 and Kane County’s is 516,522.

“They [Chicago’s representatives] made a comment about being the elephant in the room,” said Sundman, referencing an in-person meeting of the cohort she and City Clerk Sydney Bartelt attended. “So when it came around to us, I was like, ‘Well if they’re the elephant, we’re the mouse in the room because this is what we’re dealing with.’”

Bartelt applied for the program on behalf of Polo.

There are 17 goals related to preparation that Polo is supposed to accomplish within the next six months, Sundman said. She noted that it might take longer than that, but once the goals are met, the city will receive a plaque declaring it EV Ready Bronze designation.

Beyond the 17 Bronze designation goals, there are goals that will earn a municipality Silver or Gold designation, according to the press release.

“My concern was scalability and them being able to help us do this even on a smaller scaled area,” Sundman said. “But I’m excited, because I really think that if we can get even one of these stations somewhere in town and get on these databases for people who have EV cars who need to charge while they’re in transport [we’ll draw people into Polo].”

If someone is driving an EV from Monroe to Dixon and their battery needs to charge, having Polo as an option to stop and charge benefits the city, she said.

“They may pull in here, plug in, and they’ve got to hang for half-an-hour,” Sundman noted. “Meanwhile, they can walk to Shell, walk to the market, walk downtown, go look at a tree. We kind of hold them hostage while they are charging, which gives them a chance to see what we can offer.

“If they can go downtown and they can see the restaurants and they can see options and they can see stores and they can see the stuff here, then that might encourage them to come back,” she continued. “So that was my personal hope for that.”

According to the Illinois Secretary of State’s website, there were 35,504 EVs in the state and 53 EVs in Ogle County as of Nov. 15, 2021. As of Nov. 15 of this year, there are 55,333 EVs in Illinois and 77 in Ogle County. These totals do not include hybrid vehicles.

The state’s records of EVs per county go back to November 2017; at that point there were 8,031 EVs in the state and three in Ogle County.

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner

Alexa Zoellner covers Ogle County for the Oregon Republican Reporter, Forreston Journal, Mt. Morris Times and Polo Tri-County Press. She has seven-plus years of experience in journalism and has won numerous awards, including a first place award for investigative reporting from the WNA.