LANSING, Mich. — GM’s battery plant breaking ground in Lansing this summer is the first step to an electric future, which means Lansing and the state will need to start thinking about the logistics to support it.
“Can I charge it? Where do I charge it? How do I charge it? How long does it last? There's a lot of learning that has to happen with regards to consumer adoption in electric vehicles,” said Glenn Stevens, the executive director of MICHauto.
According to ChargeHub, there are only 38 public charging stations in Lansing. With Tesla being the first to put chargers in place, there are not only different brands but also different types of chargers.
"There are level one, level two and level three. Level three being the fast chargers, which takes 30 minutes to charge, and then level one being something that you might have in your home," said Stevens.
Experts and EV owners said electric vehicles are easy to charge if you own a house.
“If you own a home and you've got a garage, it's really easy to be an EV owner. If you live in apartment that is way more challenging," said Aaron Viles, the director of campaigns of the Electrification Coalition. "So, the utilities, I think, are thinking about some of their proposed plans. And I'm excited about what they're thinking about doing."
As of right now, Consumers Energy offers a $500 rebate for newly installed level 2 charging stations to its customers.
The Lansing Board of Water and Light is offering incentives for its customers who own or may want to buy an electric vehicle. "If a BWL electric customer installs a level 2 charger and has their vehicle registered at the same home address, they may qualify for a $1,000 rebate," said BWL spokesperson Amy Adamy.
Viles addressed the price of electricity versus the price of gas. “Obviously, right now we're seeing the price of gas isn't exactly predictable, and it can spike because of world events that we have zero control over. But the price of electricity is far more dependable, far lower,” he said.
“The great thing that's not discussed very often about electric vehicles is that as we adopt more of them, we can manage the charging of electric vehicles,” said Viles. “So, we can charge them at times when the utilities have more excess electricity to put into the grid, or it's not going to be utilized otherwise. That managed charging gives utilities a lot of flexibility, so they can actually charge us less for the rates of our electricity because they can manage their demand because of electric vehicles.”
“When I was convinced that there were enough charging stations out there that I could, it could drive an electric vehicle and get to various places around the state I decided to make, make that purchase. And I've been very happy with it,” said Charles Griffith, the climate and energy program director of the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.
According to Griffith, EV’s are not necessarily the best vehicles for long distance trips yet, but that this is constantly improving as well as the charging speed of batteries.
The City of Lansing is now developing a plan for public charging stations which is expected to take three-to-six-months.
Public Service Director Andrew Kilpatrick said, the city is investigating the potential for an ordinance that would require new constructions to provide charging stations or “at least the electric infrastructure to support them.”
Another major concern for customers is the affordability of electric vehicles.
President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill is financially supporting electric vehicles and chargers. His Build Back Better Plan has proposed up to $12,500 tax credits.
“Now on a state level from an electric vehicle, Governor Whitmer in her budget has proposed, I think it's $2,000, per EV, plus a $500 credit if you install a charging station in your home," said Stevens. "That, in addition to the current $7500, means that if the governor's proposal was adopted by the legislature, there would be up to $10,000 for consumers to have."
Treasurer of the East Michigan Electric Auto Association Larry Turtle says the average price that people pay for cars today is not the $19,000 Civic but is the 35 $38,000. SUV. "All those people that have SUVs could afford a Tesla," said Turtle.
GM, Ford, and other major automakers signed on to a pledge at the UN Climate Summit in November of 2021, that they would transition their markets to phasing out new gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles by 2035.
Viles pointed out the importance of state leadership to ensure that electric vehicles that are being produced in Michigan are also being sold in Michigan, as the competition increases.
“It's great for reducing your costs of fueling because you don't have to go to the gas station several times a week if you're commuting. And it's just a lot cleaner for the environment,” said Griffith.
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