Graue Chevrolet opens up new consumer charging station for Electric Vehicles

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[November 18, 2023] 

After more than a year of planning and procuring the necessary components, Graue Chevrolet in Lincoln in early November began offering electric vehicle fast charges through a new charging station for consumers. The station is located in the north lot toward the back of the lot at the dealership on North Kickapoo Street. The charging station looks much like a gas pump, accepts credit/debit card payments only, sits under a large canopy that is well lit at night. With fast charging capacity, many vehicles will be able to charge to the 80-percent mark in less than an hour, depending on how high or low the remaining charge is in the vehicle when they hook on to the Graue power source.

According to Owner/General Manager Chris Graue, electric vehicles are the future of the automotive industry, and adding sources for charging is going to be good for those who are traversing through Logan County, and more over it is going to be good for the environment.

Those who know Graue would not be surprised to hear him say that he has always loved horsepower. He likes the sound and the feel of a high-powered engine and is a fan of muscle car era vehicles. But he also sees the future and how the past and present are impacting it. Graue said there has to be a time when we realize that clean energy is what is going to preserve our earth for generations to come. He notes that we do experience “strange weather” nowadays, and he does believe that fossil fuels are adding to the problem.

Graue says General Motors is addressing the environmental concerns by developing more and more all electric vehicles. The company believes that within the next few generations of drivers, the EV market will surpass the Internal Combustion Engine (ICE) market, and that the day will come when all vehicles are EV’s.

Because of this, charging stations, like gas stations, are going to be in high demand for commuters all over the country and even the world.

Graue said that getting to this place in time was a process. For example, did you know that not just anyone is authorized to sell electric vehicles? Graue said that GM requires that dealerships wishing to sell EV’s go through a great deal of preparation. From training parts staff and mechanics to sales staff, every member of the dealership must be equipped to address the needs of the EV owner or prospective owner.

The time and money investment in getting that qualification prohibits it for some dealerships. Which, therefore, widens the consumer base for dealerships like Graue who are permitted to sell and service GM EV’s.

Graue also said that owning an EV is not as simple as walking into a dealership and purchasing an ICE vehicle. He added that to date, no one has come into the dealership with an intent to purchase an ICE and drove off the lot with an EV. The reason? There is education and preparation that needs to be done before the purchase, and driving an EV also has somewhat of a learning curve. He said that most of those who plan to purchase an EV have done their own online research and are aware of what they will be putting into the purchase in addition to the car.

One of the biggest parts of the buying process is getting the at-home charging station installed. He said that personal car chargers should be installed, one per electronic vehicle. The chargers need to be on a designated power source with no other items. He said that even though the dealership is offering a consumer product, it is not a good idea for a buyer to think he or she will just come to Graue every now and again and charge their car.

Another part of owning an electric car is having internet capability inside the car and knowing how to operate it, especially when commuting long distances. He explained that at the same time the charging station went live in the lot, it went live on Google maps. Now a simple request on the screens in the car will tell drivers where the charging station is and whether or not it is a fast, medium, or slow charger. Then, with the GPS system inside the car, a map can be provided as well as turn by turn directions to the dealership and the station.

When Graue took LDN for a ride in an all-EV car, some of the differences were quite notable. Graue explained that the model being driven offers a one pedal operation or a two-pedal operation. One pedal is like driving a golf-cart. When one depresses the pedal the car moves. The further down you press, the faster the car goes. And, when you take your foot off the pedal the car stops, rather abruptly, as a matter of fact. Graue said this is part of the learning process of operating the car. A driver will want to drive carefully and practice using the one pedal option when approaching intersections, stop signs, and traffic control devices. He said like anything else we learn in life, it takes time, patience and practice to get the process down pat.

So, what is the benefit of one pedal driving versus two-pedal driving? Graue said that two-pedal driving is much like driving a conventional ICE vehicle. The second pedal acts as a brake which slows the vehicle and eventually brings it to a stop. It does so by adding resistance to the power source, just like a disk brake. With the one-pedal system, the lifting of the foot from the pedal re-directs the energy flow from the drivetrain to an internal unit much like a generator. While this is not an internal recharging tool, it does help to preserve the charge in the power source of the car.

If you think that EV’s are slower than ICE vehicles, think again. The car LDN rode in has just as much punch and speed as any ICE vehicle on the market. And, if you miss that roar of the engine, GM has addressed that as well. Graue said that vehicle sounds have been intentionally added to the operating systems more than anything for safety purposes. But it also offers that satisfaction one gets when they “put the foot in it” and can hear the acceleration.

For the demo drive. Graue left the dealership and drove out to the Logan County Airport. There he engaged the car and asked for a charging station. The system identified three locations within a few miles of the airport. The information provided on the screen told Graue there was a station in Atlanta, and two locations in Lincoln. Graue Chevrolet was the one that was listed as the “fast” station nearest to the airport. The other location in Lincoln is an overnight charger at one of the motels on the city’s west side.

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When the Graue Chevrolet charging station was chosen, the navigation system brought up a map and audible turn by turn directions all the way back to the dealership.

Regarding the charging station at the dealership, Graue said that he began in 2022 working toward getting the station built and operational. He said there were a lot of moving parts and everything had to come together over time, to make the station a reality.

He said that as much as possible he utilized local sources. Several of the accessory components for the station came from Eaton Corp which has a location in Lincoln. He said the actual “Pump” was acquired from another source, because one year ago, Eaton did not have a product ready to market. He said they were working on something but were not ready. However, the breaker boxes and junctions and several other pieces of the puzzle did come from the local supplier.

He said that Lincoln Heating and Cooling and Dan Langley were remarkable to work with on the project. He said that Langley had a clear understanding of what was going to be needed to make the project come together.

Graue said Ameren Illinois was a tremendous friend in the process. He said that one of the biggest issues was getting electricity from Ameren to the charging station.

He pulled up pictures on his computer and explained how Ameren went the extra mile to bring electricity to the station. A separate power pole was installed close to the station with separate transformers. He said the lines included 30,000 Volts in the highest wires and 7,000 volts on the lower set. From the pole and transformers, the voltage is delivered to the power distribution panels on the station 480 volt 3 phase to run the DC Fast charger. The voltage is further stepped down by another transformer with in the station to 240/120 volt to run the level 2 chargers and the station lighting.

He said the infrastructure on the ground to bring that high voltage down to the needed voltage was carefully planned and laid in to assure the best possible outcome.

The station itself, as stated earlier, looks like a typical gas station. A hard surface canopy over the power “pump” provides shelter and has lighting built in so that the station can be used safely after dark. Graue said there are a few touches that need to be added like signage on the canopy helping drivers to see the station from the entrance of the dealership.

Graue said that using the station is pretty simple, and even though it has only been up and running a couple of weeks, it is already drawing customers off the interstate.

Video - Chris Graue demonstrates how to use the EV car Charging station at Graue Chevrolet

Once the customer is at the station the process is almost identical to using a pay at the pump gas station.

The consumer taps a credit or debit card on the designated area, chooses the charge, attaches the power cord to the car, and waits for a charging signal from both the car and the pump. Then the charge begins. The pump will tell the consumer how much charge is already in the car and how long it will take to charge to 100 percent. Graue said that drivers are taught that most of the time they should only charge to 80 percent. The exception is when they are on a long trip and they want to take advantage of a full charge. The charger will give the estimated time to charge the car to 100 percent, but Graue said that is deceptive because once the charge reaches 80 percent, the charger will slow down, a lot. Therefore that last 20 percent can take as much as twice as long as it took to get to the 80 mark.

As the car is charging, the consumer can stop the process at any time, and their card will be charged only for the number of kilowatt hours that were added to the car.

Graue said that electric vehicles are the face of the future. Like many other new technology products there are those who will think it could be a passing fancy, a fad if you will, but the truth is EV’s are going to be out there from here on out. Even today, new vehicles are being developed and some of what is coming down the pipeline will be a happy surprise for those who love muscle and speed.

If you have questions about the new EV charging station at Graue Chevrolet, be sure to reach out to Chris or the Graue staff.

[Nila Smith]

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