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Michigan’s Future Mobility Relies on EV Charging Expansion

The U.S. Department of Energy reports that there are 39 percent more electric vehicle chargers statewide this year than last, yet there is still only one charging station for every seven EV drivers.

(TNS) — Wendy Mutch said she's never going back to a fully gas-powered vehicle. The Novi, Mich., resident purchased her 2015 Chevy Volt four years ago.

She's glad that the state, working with the private sector as well as its local and federal partners, is using federal dollars to create an electric vehicle charging network across the state.

"Electric vehicles are not the bulk of the vehicles on the road now, but I believe it to be true that there's going to be increased competition for the charging stations," said Mutch. "I'm glad that the state is being proactive. We'll see how it goes."

Mutch uses the charging stations at the Novi Public Library to charge up her plug-in hybrid vehicle, which can run on gas or electricity. Novi was one of the first local governments to install free electric vehicle chargers. The library chargers were installed in 2011.

"It takes about four hours to charge and I get 36 miles on a full charge," she said. "My family lives in Grand Rapids so I do use gasoline to get there and back. I was a nervous wreck when I first got it, but I love it. I would never go back to gas."

According to U.S. Department of Energy data, there are over 2,500 electric vehicle chargers in Michigan, including around 2,300 for use by the public. This represents a 39 percent increase from 2021.

For 2021, the most recent data available, there were around 17,500 registered electric vehicles in Michigan, an increase of 64.7 percent from 2020. Based on federal data, there's about one charging station for every 7 Michigan electric vehicle drivers.

Last month, the federal government announced that Michigan will receive a $110 million grant from the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure ( NEVI) Formula Program, as part of the federal Infrastructure Law. The money will be used to increase the charging network to support long-distance travel and provide convenient charging options. Along with the money, MDOT's Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Deployment Plan was approved by the U.S. Department of Transportation.

The plan is to install four 150 kilowatt (kW)-or-greater vehicle chargers spaced no more than 50 miles apart along each of the state's designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, which include all seven of the state's major highways that will serve as the backbone of Michigan's vehicle charging network. These include I-69, I-75, I-94, I-96, I-196, I-275, I-696.

Once the highway charging network is completed, the remaining money becomes discretionary and can be used on any public road or in other publicly accessible areas.

Charging Network

Judson Herzer, managing director of policy in the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, said federal resources are incredibly important as the state grows its vehicle charging infrastructure to help defeat the notion of range anxiety.

"It's a top barrier for potential EV purchasers," he said. "Being able to drive an electric car or truck anywhere across the United States without fear of being out of range of a charging opportunity will have a big impact on EV sales — which is important for Detroit auto manufacturers and Michigan's economy."

Last month, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer unveiled a new statewide strategy to ensure Michigan remains the global leader in the future of mobility.

The MI Future Mobility Plan aims to coordinate efforts across multiple state departments and agencies to address challenges and support growth in the mobility and electrification industry. The plan was developed by the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and its Council on Future Mobility and Electrification, both of which were formed in February 2020.

One of the goals of the plan is to provide safer, greener, and more accessible transportation infrastructure. That includes increasing the number of vehicle chargers across the state.

According to the plan, the state will install 100,000 vehicle chargers to support 2 million electric vehicles by the year 2030. To meet the goal over 12,000 vehicle chargers would need to be installed per year.

You can view a map of Michigan's electric vehicle charging stations here:

Woody Gontina, a Royal Oak resident with a background in sustainable home design and construction, bought his Tesla Model 3 in 2018.

He's a believer in sustainability, having built the first Leadership in Energy and Environment Design (LEED)-certified homes in Oakland County, and that more vehicle charging stations need to be installed across Michigan.

"Range anxiety is not necessarily a real thing in that gas vehicles have limited range too," he said. "The only difference is where and how quickly you can fill up a gas tank vs. an EV. Increasing the number of charging stations will support our economy and the automakers that have made a commitment to electricity."


Rivian, an electric vehicle manufacturer that also makes its own chargers, is one of the state's partners working to help expand the vehicle charging network in Michigan.

Earlier this year, the company announced a partnership with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources and Michigan Economic Development Corporation to install Rivian Waypoints chargers at 20 state parks. The first were installed earlier this year at Holland State Park.

Chris Nevers, Rivian's senior director of public policy, said this $110 million investment from the federal government lays the foundation for a reliable charging network needed to support Michigan's growing number of electric vehicles.

Nevers added that a robust charging network provides immediate economic benefits and lays the foundation for future to help meet more complex charging needs.

"Expanded charging infrastructure supports the electric vehicle transition and grows the Michigan economy with Michigan's largest employers having invested billions in this technological shift," he said.

In addition, Judson Herzer, managing director of policy in the Michigan Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, said having a robust vehicle charging network will improve the perception of the state as friendly to electric vehicles.

"Smoothing out the demand for electricity across the distribution grid and throughout the day will help lower the cost of energy for all Michiganders," he said. "On a more macro level, the entire country — including Michigan — will benefit from lowering our dependence on foreign oil, and from improved health benefits and equity opportunities that will result from decarbonizing the transportation sector."

One way to improve the state's reputation as a leader in electric vehicles is to ensure that the vehicles, batteries and parts are manufactured here in Michigan.

Earlier this month, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) board approved more than $400 million in incentives for two vehicle battery factories estimated to cost $4 billion and bring 4,500 jobs to the state.

A Michigan company, Our Next Energy, would receive $236 million in the agreement for a $1.6 billion project in Van Buren Township southwest of Detroit. Another $175 million in incentives will go to a $2.4 billion factory planned by Gotion, a Chinese manufacturer, for Big Rapids in northern Michigan. The factories would produce components used for electric vehicle batteries.

Herzer added that part of being a global leader in electrification means being a leader in the deployment of EV chargers.

Mobility Challenges

James Fabin, a Farmington Hills resident, traded his 2021 BMW X5 45e electric-only sport utility vehicle for a 2023 Hyundai Palisade gas-powered sport utility vehicle because he doesn't believe Michigan has a robust vehicle charging network.

Fabin, who works for an automotive supplier, was surprised when he moved from Ohio at the lack of vehicle chargers in Michigan.

"I thought there would have been chargers everywhere around Detroit and in the larger communities around the city," he said. "I was just blown away. We don't even have a bank of chargers at my work or at my local stores."

He has plans to go back to an electric vehicle, but only after he feels the state has enough chargers for him to feel confident on long road trips.

"Every weekend my family is out and about driving and that's part of the problem with electric vehicles," he said. "We go up north, but wonder if there are enough chargers and how much time we will have to spend to charge up. It's much easier with a gas engine right now."

Kelsey Peterson, DTE's manager of transportation electrification, said range anxiety, or lack of confidence in refueling infrastructure, continues to be one of the barriers to EV adoption.

"Growing the network of charging stations is critical for EVs to achieve widespread adoption," she said. The $110 million in NEVI program funding is more than eleven times greater than what Michigan received from the Volkswagen Settlement to establish the Charge Up Michigan program.

She added, "Even so, that amount won't be enough for all of Michigan's charging needs, so federal, state, utility, and local government partnerships are critical to achieving Michigan's mobility goals. With more EVs on the road, EV charging has followed and is more important than ever."

The Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification has previously indicated 2030 as the year when vehicle electrification becomes the dominant propulsion system on the market and EV infrastructure becoming a more common part of the mobility experience.

Michigan Electric Vehicle Incentives

DTE Energy offers a $500 rebate for the installation of a Level 2 EV charging station to qualified residential customers that purchase or lease an electric vehicle.

The company, through its Charging Forward Program, also offers rebates of between $2,000 and $55,000 for business and commercial electric customers that install EV chargers.

Over the past three years, Peterson said DTE has approved over 1,000 rebates for businesses to deploy Level 2 chargers and almost 130 rebates for public fast chargers.

"Over 600 of those have been installed to date," she said. "DTE also works with state agencies to promote transportation electrification for all. Most recently, we have partnered with the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification and Volta, an EV charger company, to bring additional EV charging stations at six underserved locations."

Nate Mack, South Lyon's downtown development authority director, said the city is taking advantage of this program by installing two, level 2 EV chargers in the downtown district.

A Level 2 charger ranges from 6.2 to 19.2 kW and will get an average of 32 miles of driving range per hour of charge. The average charging time for a Level 2 EV charger is around 3-8 hours from empty.

"After conducting some research, we found there are very few EV charging stations in and around the South Lyon community," he said. "Looking at market trends and paying attention to reports from auto companies, we are seeing that now is the time to begin to implement EV chargers for people in the area.

He said that DTE's program will help offset the EV charger installation costs.

"The writing is on the wall," he said. "The federal government has incentivized the build of the EV charger network nationally and the trend is shifting towards electric vehicles."

(c)2022 Morning Sun, Mount Pleasant, Mich. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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