Author: Trevor Pawl, chief mobility officer for the state of Michigan
Over the past year, it seems like everyone rekindled a love for jigsaw puzzles. Typically, everyone starts on their own section before it is time to pull our pieces together and complete the picture – hopefully without any missing pieces.
In a way, that is exactly what we are doing today as America rolls out greener and smarter infrastructure. This jigsaw puzzle is not a novel one – Detroit has paved the way for infrastructure changes since the first concrete paved road, Woodward Avenue, in 1909. The hope was that other states and cities would see the benefits and invest in their own concrete stretches and connect them together. Lane markings also started on Woodward Avenue in 1911 when an engineer at the Wayne County Road Commission saw a leaky milk wagon leave behind a trail. Eventually New York, Chicago, and Atlanta created lane markings along key thoroughfares, and now they’re universal. A decade later, three-colored traffic signals and the first four way signal appeared in Detroit in 1920, inspiring engineers around city leaders around the country to embrace one standard traffic system for intersections and stops.
And for the better part of the last century, we’ve expanded on these networks and maintained them without a need to create a new blueprint. But now things are beginning to fall apart, literally
The Biden Administration’s proposed infrastructure plan is a major jumping off point at the federal level. But we also need to step up at the state-level, collaborating both in our own backyard through public and private partnerships as well as with our neighboring states to ensure we are not working in silos.
Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer recently announced approval on installing 88 fast charging stations for private and commercial vehicles at 32 locations around the state. This initiative is part of the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy’s (EGLE) ‘Charge Up’ grants, which now has committed to adding 182 charging station outlets across 76 locations. These efforts will build on Michigan’s current infrastructure that offers 480 publicly accessible charging stations featuring nearly 1,400 charging outlets, in addition to 146 private charging stations.
More recently, EGLE announced it is offering a second round of funding for electric, hydrogen fuel cell or diesel-electric hybrid commercial and mass transit vehicles to replace older, diesel-fueled models. Grants can also be used to buy charging stations for EVs. The application window runs through August 20.
However, Michigan’s vision does not stop at the state line. The larger goal is to link Michigan’s charging network to other charging networks in the Midwest and nationally.
Regionally, the Department of Energy is funding the Michigan-to-Montana Alternative Fuel Corridor. Dating back to its inception in 2017 and supported by $5 million in federal grants, this corridor will coordinate electric vehicle charging and compressed natural gas fueling stations along I-94 from Port Huron, Michigan, to Billings, Montana. Projected to be complete by the end of 2021, the corridor includes stops along the way in major cities like Detroit, Chicago, Milwaukee and Minneapolis, as well as smaller, rural cities.
There also continues to be great collaborations between Midwestern states and their energy companies. Last September, six Midwest energy companies, including Ameren Illinois, Ameren Missouri, Consumers Energy, DTE Energy, Evergy and Oklahoma Gas and Electric, committed to a first-of-its-kind Memorandum of Cooperation to work together to build a vast network of Midwest EV charging stations by the end of 2022.
Since that announcement, DTE Energy received approval from the Michigan Public Service Commission to begin the second phase of its Charging Forward EV pilot program, which aims to increase EV awareness while offering residential Level 2 charger rebates and public Level 2 and DC Fast Charging (DCFC) infrastructure enablement incentives. As outlined in a DBusiness feature on the program, the second phase of DTE Energy’s plan is designed to prevent disruption from EV adoption and fleet electrification expansion by establishing an education and outreach plan targeted to Michigan’s commercial fleet operators on the benefits of electrification, provide support for fleet operators looking to electrify their fleets and fund service connection upgrades and credits toward customer-owned contribution in aid of construction as well as rebates for charging infrastructure.
Consumers Energy has also been busy, announcing its PowerMIFleet program in June. This program offers Michigan businesses, local governments and school bus fleets with expert planning resources and $3 million in rebates for charging locations throughout the state.
As you can see, there’s a lot of great work and partnerships underway to help bring this green infrastructure to life. But based on recent insights from EY, we need to be ready even sooner than previously thought as they project U.S. EV sales will surpass other powertrains as the top selling vehicle type by 2036 (by 2028 in Europe and 2033 in China).
Revolutionized infrastructure can also be a cutting-edge economic development tool that drives private investment, business growth, equitable transportation, and community vitality.
The good news is we have a clearer picture of what needs to be done, road-by-road, state-by-state. The pieces are beginning to come together.