Michigan electric vehicle registrations climbed nearly 60 percent over the past year, which comes as the state is preparing to deploy tens of millions of dollars for additional charging infrastructure.
State officials project as many as 60,000 plug-in electric vehicles to be on Michigan roads by 2024. Electric vehicle adoption is expected to grow exponentially in the following years as automakers produce more consumer and commercial fleet models. Michigan’s largest energy provider, Jackson-based Consumers Energy, anticipates 1 million electric vehicles in its Lower Peninsula service territory by 2030.
Behind the scenes, though, is a sprawling and coordinated effort by utilities, state officials and the private sector to bolster the charging station infrastructure needed to support the growth in EV adoption.
In her proposed budget for next fiscal year, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer has recommended spending $90 million for various point-of-sale and charging station rebates and another $10 million to begin converting state government fleet vehicles. Much of this funding would come through two federal spending plans, the American Rescue Plan Act and the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. Whitmer’s plan also recommends additional funding for various electric vehicle job training programs.
Michigan had about 10,500 registered electric vehicles in March 2021, according to the Secretary of State. That grew to nearly 16,400 this past month, although they remain a tiny fraction of the 9 million vehicles registered in the state.
However, folding in new federal funding with existing electric vehicle charging efforts could lead to up to 60,000 electric vehicles on Michigan roads by 2024, said Robert Jackson, energy ombudsman for the state Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE).
“That in itself is impressive,” he said. “The key here is: How many miles do you drive those EVs? When you add in (drivers from neighboring states), that’s a lot of vehicles on the road that need a place to charge. It’s big enough to plan and build a network around.”
Meanwhile, state utility regulators have approved millions of dollars for ratepayer-funded rebate programs that Michigan’s largest utilities are deploying to private-sector site hosts to help cover charging station installation costs. Last week, Consumers Energy announced that it will issue 200 rebates over the next two years for charging stations at overnight stay locations, multifamily housing and along key highway corridors for fast charging. The 100 new fast-charging stations would roughly triple the existing 35 in Consumers’ territory.
“This is really important infrastructure, in our mind, for ensuring people can take their electric vehicle basically anywhere they want and not have to worry about finding a charger when they get there,” said Jeff Myrom, Consumers’ director of electric transportation customer programs.
The federal funding for electric vehicles is directed through the Michigan Department of Transportation, which is coordinating with the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. EGLE is working with utilities and site hosts to strategically locate chargers across the state.
State officials announced in February that Michigan would receive $110 million in federal infrastructure funding over the next five years. That’s on top of tens of millions available through the American Rescue Plan Act and roughly $4.5 million left in settlement funds from the Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal that has been spent down in recent years.
Jackson said the $110 million over five years is for building out light- and heavy-duty charging infrastructure and supporting “alternative fuel corridors” in high-traffic areas.
“Those are going to be built out strategically along the corridor,” he said.
That build-out likely will be tied into the Charge Up Michigan initiative, which in prior years developed a map of optimal charging sites to more easily allow drivers to travel the state and access power stations. Utility rebate programs have worked alongside that initiative, with charger installation costs being split between state Volkswagen settlement funds, utility rebates and site hosts.
“It is working according to plan,” Jackson said of Charge Up Michigan, noting that 276 charging stations have been deployed at a cost of $16.1 million.
Jane McCurry, executive director of advocacy group Clean Fuels Michigan, called Whitmer’s EV-related budget proposals “really comprehensive” and noted that the multiple layers of collaboration are “going to be really crucial. I do feel the administration has set the stage for that.”
She also called the current EV buildup a “down payment” that will require additional investments in job training and ensuring affordability for potential EV drivers.
“Utility programs combined with federal infrastructure funding and the state budget provide an awesome down payment to really get the ball rolling downhill so we have ubiquitous charging infrastructure for Michiganders,” she said. “But it’s a down payment. So everyone can be part of it, we have to have the workforce in Michigan and the vehicles built in Michigan.”