After being buried in snow, the Windy City is getting ready to go electric. Illinois Governor Pat Quinn and the city of Chicago announced a $9 million electric vehicle infrastructure program Monday that would see nearly 300 charging stations installed in the city and its suburbs by the end of 2011.

The program, one of the most ambitious in the United States, calls for 207 "Level 2" chargers – which take several hours to fully-recharge most electric cars – and 73 quick-charging stations, which can restore juice much more quickly. Set to encompass 23 suburbs, the chargers will be installed by San Diego, Calif.-based 350Green LLC in shopping centers, airport parking lots, and downtown buildings.

"When this project is completed by the end of this year, Chicago will have the most DC quick-charging stations of any city in the United States," Suzanne Malec-McKenna, commissioner of the city's Department of the Environment, told "The only competition is the entire state of California with just a couple dozen more."

Although the charging stations will make it easier for Chicagoans to own electric vehicles, it's still not certain how customers will pay for the electricity. As in many states, resale of electricity is illegal in Illinois, meaning users will have to pay monthly or per use rather than by the amount of electricity they use. According to 350Green, quick-charging will be more expensive than Level 2 charging, with an unlimited monthly subscription running between $50 and $60.

Another bump in the road for the program is the difficulty of installing curbside charging stations, due to the difficulty of securing permits from various cities to place the stations on public land. Instead, 350Green will seek retail partners willing to add the charging stations to their parking lots throughout the Chicago area.

The state of Illinois and cities in the Chicagoland area are financing the charging stations through an $8.9 million grant mostly derived from private investors, the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, and a special grant from the federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. An electric-vehicle consortium picked 350Green to install the charging stations among other companies bidding for the project.

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Jeffrey Archer is fortunate to have turned a passion for cars into a career. His wide-ranging automotive experience includes work for automakers and dealers in addition to covering the news. When not writing, he spends his time searching for unique cars on

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