As Kermit the Frog sang, sometimes it's not easy being green.
That appears to be particularly the case in Michigan, home to the three largest U.S. automakers.
The Great Lakes State is a global hub of automotive technology, the bulk of it centered around internal-combustion engines.
CHECK OUT: Michigan Gov Snyder Signs 'Corrupt Politics At Its Worst' Anti-Tesla Bill (Oct 2014)
If you want to buy or drive an electric car in Michigan, however, the odds appear to be stacked against you at the moment. Consider the following hurdles:
(1) BAN ON TESLA SALES
It's still not possible for Tesla to sell cars at the single location it operates, a Tesla Gallery inside a Nordstrom department store in Troy, opened only in December 2016.
Michigan Governor Rick Snyder with Ford's steering wheel technology at ITS World Congress, Detroit
The state has no Tesla service location either, though the company's map says one is "coming soon" to Detroit (and offers a Roadside Assistance number for drivers).
Tesla's pariah status was cemented in October 2014, when the state's powerful auto-dealer lobbyists inserted a single word into state franchise-law language that was immediately passed and then signed into law by governor Rick Snyder within days.
The bill was called "corrupt politics at its worst" by Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan, in an article in The Detroit News.
The last-minute amendment, he said, represented “a real travesty.”
It may not be surprising that the state that houses the Detroit Three makers has no particular love for an upstart California carmaker they have come to perceive as a threat.
We just wonder where the many Tesla Model S and Model X electric cars we've seen in and around Detroit, including more than one being tested by those makers, were purchased.
2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016
(2) SLOWEST CHEVY BOLT EV AVAILABILITY
Adding insult to injury, the award-winning 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, rated at 238 miles of range at a price of $37,500, is built at an assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan.
You'd think that might be a source of pride, but once those Bolts leave the line, every single one of the pioneering electric cars is immediately shipped out of the state.
The home state of General Motors has always been in the last and final group of states (including places like North Dakota) that would open up for Bolt EV sales.
While the first Bolts were sold in California last December, Michiganders can't take delivery until sometime in August at the earliest—and that comes from a recent acceleration of the schedule (it was originally September).
(Unless those buyers travel to another state to buy their cars and bring them home, of course—rather like Tesla buyers have to do.)
The challenges extend beyond simply buying electric cars, however. Charging them may be tough too.
Electric-car charging stations in Michigan, June 2017 [U.S. Energy Information Authority AFDC]
(3) LACK OF CHARGING STATIONS
According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center on the U.S. Energy Information Authority website, Michigan has 328 electric-car charging locations with a total of 870 outlets.
EDITOR'S NOTE: That website is maintained by the U.S. Department of Energy's Vehicle Technology Office, and not by the AFDC itself as we'd originally written—which a member of that team who's a reader reminded us. Sorry for the error!
That's 2.0 percent of the 16,036 sites totaling 43,129 outlets in the U.S. as a whole—but Michigan has 3.1 percent of U.S. population, so it's shy on charging locations.
Proud Michigander Brandon Turkus, who lives and works in the suburbs of Detroit, discovered this first-hand while testing a 2017 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid for his 19-mile commute.
The car's EPA-rated 22 miles of battery range should have let him travel electrically to and from work, presuming there was a way to charge during his workday. There wasn't.
He asked pointedly, "Why am I at an office mere minutes from the site of Chevrolet Bolt EV production and I can't recharge a piddly 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery for a couple of hours?"
Michigan's overall numbers improve somewhat when you net out California, the acknowledged leader by far in electric-car sales and charging infrastructure.
Ford World Headquarters
But it's now clear that electrification, especially plug-in vehicles—both battery-electric and plug-in hybrid—is going to transform the global auto industry over the next few decades.
Why isn't the state leading on installation of charging sites to pioneer the technology and get local consumer experience?
That might help attempts to position Michigan as a forward-looking technology hub, rather than a Rust Belt industrial state with terrible weather that houses two huge companies American taxpayers had to rescue less than 10 years ago at a cost of tens of billions of dollars.
Google opens new 53,000 square foot autonomous car development facility in Novi, Michigan
(4) PUSHBACK ON UTILITY CHARGING STATIONS
That question may soon begin to worry thought leaders in the state, especially in light of the withdrawal of a recent $15 million plan by electric utility Consumers Energy.
That plan would have installed 60 DC fast-charging stations along major thoroughfares, and hundreds of 240-volt Level 2 charging sites elsewhere.
But numerous entities lined up to fight the plan. The state attorney general's office called it “ill-conceived and a financial burden on all electric customers of the company if it were approved.”
California-based ChargePoint Network, meanwhile, attacked the plan as unfair competition to its own business model of getting paid to install, maintain, and handle billing for charging stations for site owners.
The plan is now dead.
Detail from first of four phases of VW 'Electrify America' zero-emission vehicle infrastructure plan
(5) FIRST 'ELECTRIFY AMERICA' PLAN LITTLE HELP
It's possible that episode fed into the relative paucity of Michigan sites in the first wave of charging stations proposed by the "Electrify America" project.
That group is the one that will plan and execute the 10-year, $2 billion array of zero-emission vehicle fueling sites agreed to by Volkswagen as part of the penalty for its diesel emission scandal.
While Chicago is included in the first $300 million, 30-month plan for sites outside California—which has now been approved by the EPA—Detroit and environs are not.
Electrify America will put charging sites at locations along Interstates 75 and 94, which intersect in downtown Detroit, however.
Charge Up Midwest continues to advocate for more cities in the region to be included in Electrify America's plan.
2016 Nissan Leaf SL fast-charging at NRG evGo Freedom Station, Hudson Valley, NY, Dec 2015
Nissan to the rescue?
There is one very tiny ray of sunshine, though.
Nissan recently announced that it had installed two new DC fast-charging stations at USA 2 GO convenience stores in the towns of Novi and Howell, along Interstate 96.
Each of those stations offers both CHAdeMO and CCS fast charging, making them usable for both Nissan Leafs and all U.S. and German electric cars.
Those two sites, however, represented a 15-percent increase in the state's total population of fast-charging stations.
Excluding Tesla Supercharger sites, Michigan now has a total of 13 DC fast-charging sites with 24 outlets.