Electric vehicle program approval expected to incentivize EV charger placement in Michigan

A hybrid vehicle being charged outside MPSC offices in Lansing.

The Michigan Public Service Commission on Jan. 8 approved the first-of-its-kind electric vehicle pilot program in the state.

The Consumers Electric pilot program was informed by two alternative fuel vehicle technical conferences the Commission sponsored, where topics of discussion included utility pilot electric vehicle charging projects and what role the Commission plays in program deployment. As utilities developed their programs, the Commission asked that they focus on four primary concepts: EV education, impact on the electrical grid, customer rates, and infrastructure development.

The program proposed by Consumers supports the growing EV market in Michigan through new rates, rebates and customer education, and was part of a rate case before the MPSC. It represents a thoughtful, collaborative and forward-looking approach to examine how future transportation in Michigan will be part of a national and international movement towards electrification, said Commissioner Norman J. Saari.

“Michigan is still the auto state in the auto world,” Saari said. “Michigan is being challenged to establish bold and innovative auto industry manufacturing programs and equally forward thinking and responsible regulatory programs to better understand the emerging adoption of electrified transportation.”

The $10 million, three-year Consumers program includes a Nighttime Savers Rate to encourage EV drivers to charge their vehicles between 7 p.m. and 6 a.m. Residential EV drivers who sign up for the nighttime rate will be offered a $500 rebate for the installation of an approved EV charging station. Consumers will also offer $5,000 rebates for chargers installed in public areas such as workplaces and multi-unit dwellings, and up to $70,000 in rebates for the installation of a DC Fast Charger.

Michigan’s other major utility, DTE Electric Co., is proposing a similar EV charging infrastructure program, called Charging Forward, as part of its rate case before the MPSC.

The Commission’s approval of the pilot program follows action on EVs by two other Michigan agencies in December.

The Michigan Energy Office released preliminary findings from a study with Michigan State University on identifying the ideal locations and the number of EV chargers along well-traveled Michigan highways. The MEO study is unique in its approach in determining the optimal location of EV chargers in public locations in the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Among other factors, the study looks at the feasibility of a road trip, the distance between charging stations, the charging speed, total time needed to get a charge, and wait time for chargers.

The Michigan Department of Environmental Quality released its first funding opportunity under the new Fuel Transformation Program supported with Volkswagen settlement funds. The grants will fund the replacement of old diesel school buses with new propane, compressed natural gas, diesel, hybrid, and electric school buses. Of the $12.96 million that is available, $3 million has been earmarked for the purchase of alternative fuel school buses and charging stations.