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Michigan lags in charging stations for electric vehicles

December 11, 2015
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LANSING — Michigan has only 2 percent of the nation’s public charging stations for electric vehicles. Lansing has the most — 27 — followed by Detroit with 25.

There are 11,254 alternative fueling stations, which can charge electric vehicles, and 31,265 charging outlets in the United States, according to the U.S. Department of Energy, while Michigan only has 271 stations and 681 charging outlets.

Robert Feldmaier, director of the Center for Advanced Automotive Technology at Macomb Community College, said there is a reason Michigan doesn’t have many charging stations: “California has a lot, but Michigan doesn’t because there aren’t that many electric vehicles here, so there isn’t that much demand.”

Feldmaier said with fewer available charging stations, most people are charging their electric vehicles at home.

Some public places having charging stations provided by private companies, rather than by the government. “Usually a start-up business puts charger stations at public places or restaurants to let people use them and to sell some other electric product,” Feldmaier said.

A numbers of campuses have charging stations, including Grand Valley State, Western Michigan, Wayne State and Michigan State universities, University of Michigan and University of Detroit Mercy.

Jeff Cranson, director of communications at the Department of Transportation, said MDOT has plans to help increase electric charging stations.

“The department will cooperate with local agencies or private entities to co-locate electric charging stations as permitted under current federal regulations. Funding would come from the entity looking to install and operate the charging station,” he said.

Cranson said permits were issued to allow plug-in charging at two MDOT park-and-ride lots: Grand Blanc Township and the Ann Arbor Transit Authority. Both installations operate at no cost to the user.

Bruce Westlake, from the Michigan Electric Auto Association in Saline, said electric cars can be more expensive to buy than regular cars, but they’re cheaper to operate.

A new road funding law is raising the registration fee for electric cars. Beginning Jan. 1, 2017, registration fees for passenger and commercial vehicles will increase by 20 percent. A plug-in hybrid vehicle will have a surcharge of $30 annually and an electric vehicle surcharge will be $100 annually.

Cranson said the fact that electric cars don’t pay gas tax might be the rationale for the surcharges. But “opponents of that measure, especially advocates for the environment, argue that it is a disincentive to use alternative technology.”

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