Driver’s EV: ComEd donates electric cars to handful of Chicago high schools

Power company has directed $700,000 to 14 schools across the state to bring electric vehicles and charging stations to high schools.

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CPS CEO Pedro Martinez (left), driver’s ed student Lina Aburukbah and ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones stand in the parking lot at Taft High School on Friday. Aburukbah took Quiniones and Martinez for a spin around the school’s parking lot in one of two new Nissan Leaf EVs.

CPS CEO Pedro Martinez (left), driver’s ed student Lina Aburukbah and ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones stand in the parking lot at Taft High School on Friday. Aburukbah took Quiniones and Martinez for a spin around the school’s parking lot in one of two new Nissan Leaf EVs.

Brian Rich/Sun-Times

ComEd officials were on hand at Taft High School on Friday to test drive a pair of new electric cars the electric utility donated to the North Side school.

Taft two years ago was among the first schools to receive electric vehicles and charging stations paid for by ComEd’s EVs for Education grant program, and the cars are favorites of Taft’s student drivers, said junior Lina Aburukbah, who took ComEd CEO Gil Quiniones and Chicago Public Schools CEO Pedro Martinez for a spin around the school’s parking lot in one of two new Nissan Leaf EVs.

“The cars are so much smoother (than gas-powered cars),” Aburukbah said. “I feel so much safer on the road.”

The electric cars have held up better than the school’s existing fleet of gas-powered cars, though with around 1,000 students taking driver’s ed at the Norwood Park campus each year, some students might not get behind the wheel of an EV before they get their license, said Shireena Lewis, director of Taft’s driver’s ed program.

“The students really like them. They just perform better; it’s a more smooth ride,” Lewis said.

Teachers prefer them as well, since the cars don’t have to be driven to a CPS fueling station to gas up. The Leaf has a range of more than 200 miles on a single charge, according to Nissan’s website, but “battery anxiety”— the fear of running out of juice far from a charging station— leads teachers to plug the cars in after around 75 to 100 miles, Lewis said.

The power company, which on Thursday saw the state Commerce Commission approve a $50 million rate increase for 2023, has directed $700,000 to 14 schools across the state, Quiniones said. CPS high schools Chicago Vocational, Prosser, Bogan and Simeon also have gotten EVs through the program, and Lane Tech will have two EVs by the end of this year, said CPS spokeswoman Sylvia Barragan.

Schools can apply for EVs for Education grants at the ComEd website or the website for the Illinois High School & College Driver Education Association.

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