Over the past decade, Michigan, the traditional home of the U.S. auto industry and a hub for manufacturing, has seemed perfectly fine ceding leadership in electric vehicle infrastructure to the West Coast.
Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Witmer introduced two projects that could go a long way to turn that impression around: one involving dynamic wireless charging infrastructure for a public road, the other adding charging waypoints to a popular charging route.
The in-road charging system, which would allow vehicles to charge as they drive, hasn’t yet been detailed, but it would be given a one-mile pilot-project installation in the Detroit area, according to the Detroit Free Press. It might potentially leapfrog an Indiana project that’s already in its first phase and would enter a similar operation level in 2022 or 2023.
HaloIPT wireless charging
Whitmer also last week announced the Lake Michigan EV Circuit, a route especially aiming to attract electric-vehicle-driving tourists from Chicago and Milwaukee. Whitmer's office, in a press release, called the circuit “the best new road-trip for EV owners in America,” and noted that it will tie coastal communities, parks, and tourism attractions into the wider EV charging infrastructure, keeping in mind high summer utilization and challenging winter conditions that result in reduced EV battery range.
The network will be initially funded at $1.25 million, with a feasibility study, then installation grants coming from the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE) Charge Up MI program. It notes that the hardware will be either DC fast-charging or Level 2, “depending on the electrical infrastructure at the host side.”
AeroVironment DC fast charger, part of West Coast Electric Highway - Centralia, WA
Level 2 aside, that closely aligns with what Oregon, Washington, and California undertook a decade ago, when they established the West Coast Electric Highway, a network of DC fast-chargers spaced 25 to 50 miles apart. In October, those stations are due to start receiving a second generation of charging hardware.
In 2019, the Detroit area finally started getting more DC fast-chargers, but that didn’t extend much of the convenience to the rest of the state.
That’s not to say Michigan hasn’t tried. We’ve outlined some of the pushback the state has faced in the past. Just four years ago, one of the largest utilities in Michigan withdrew plans for 30 fast-charging stations because of challenges from various interests—including the network operator ChargePoint.
Factory Zero - GM Detroit-Hamtramck revamped for EVs
But in light of high-profile electric vehicle manufacturing in Michigan—with the Ford F-150 Lightning, GMC Hummer EV, and Jeep plug-in hybrid models soon due to be assembled in the Detroit area and the Chevy Bolt EV already made there—it’s good to see some of those challenges passed and Michigan stepping up.