By on September 28, 2021

Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer has announced a plan to construct the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit that would allow EV drivers to enjoy a scenic, coastal drive without being distracted by fears of range anxiety. Having recently returned from the Mitten state, I can say that its current charging infrastructure is about what you’d expect. You’re bound to find something in the urban hubs, likely with a little help from navigational apps. But the spaces between aren’t going to be of much help and the situation only worsens as you head north along the Eastern coastline where charging points are particularly sparse.

But it’s Lake Michigan that draws the most tourists in a given year, so Whitmer’s team has elected to plot the stations on the Western side of the state to encourage visitors. As a byproduct, leadership said this will also prove that the region is committed to electrification and serious about supporting the evolving automotive industry. 

“The circuit is going to entice residents and travelers to explore our incredible coastal communities and amenities while using clean energy, cutting pollution and helping to protect our air and water,” the governor told the the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Mackinac Policy Conference last week, adding that the planned stretch of coastline will be the “best new road trip for electric vehicle owners in America.”

But Whitmer and company aren’t plotting to build anything just yet. According to The Detroit News, the government wants to spend 2021 on a feasibility study aimed at determining whether or not this is a good idea. From there, it’s likely to be a long process of making the right partnerships and going over the logistics of how things should be done.

From The Detroit News:

Grants to install the charging infrastructure will be provided through a Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy program with $1.25 million in funding initially available, according to the governor’s office.

The Wednesday announcement is part of a focus by the Whitmer administration on making the state a leader in electric vehicle manufacturing. The governor also unveiled plans to create academies to help boost the state’s workforce for the jobs that will be created as more customers buy electric cars and trucks.

The state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity is looking to partner with three to five organizations for the academies, amounting to an investment of up to $5 million, the governor’s office said.

Sounds good in the short term, especially if Michigan ends up being the state that gets more than its fair share of EV-related jobs. But just about every long-term analysis I’ve read suggests that swapping over to EV manufacturing will shrink the automotive sector, resulting in at least 100,000 fewer manufacturing jobs. On the upside, the new jobs created are supposed to offer larger paychecks than what the average line worker can expect today.

Of course, that’s assuming electric cars become the dominant form of transportation in the United States. Despite the past few years representing healthy growth, plug-in vehicles (including hybrids) actually saw their market share go down in 2019. The following year wasn’t much better due to suppressed production stemming from COVID. But it all depends on who you’re asking and how the question is framed. IHS Markit claimed 2020 represented the highest EV acceptance rate in the U.S. in history with a 1.8 percent market share. In the previous year, the Edison Electric Institute also estimated that electrics represented an identical 1.8 percent of the U.S. auto market.

It’s difficult to say who has the most accurate account, especially since the definition of what constitutes an EV remains obnoxiously fluid. Sometimes it means purely battery electric automobiles, sometimes it applies to any plug-in vehicle, and there are even instances where it’s been used as a catch-all for cars utilizing any form of electric propulsion. But manufacturers the world over are still investing heavily into electrification in general, suggesting nobody is interested in abandoning the technology anytime soon.

Gov. Whitmer has also introduced an initiative to develop the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on public roads at Motor Bella this month. The plan involves building highways capable of inductive charging, allowing future EVs to recoup lost energy as they continue their journey. Considering most Michigan roads are covered in salt and snow between November and April, I’m not exactly sure how this would work. But she seems excited about the possibility and it would really be something if the state actually managed to pull it off.

“Michigan was home to the first mile of paved road, and now we’re paving the way for the roads of tomorrow with innovative infrastructure that will support the economy and the environment, helping us achieve our goal of carbon neutrality by 2050,” she said. “This project reinforces my commitment to accelerating the deployment of electric vehicle infrastructure in Michigan and will create new opportunities for businesses and high-tech jobs amidst the transition to electric vehicles.”

The Michigan Department of Transportation is supposed to release a Request for Proposal later today “to design, fund, evaluate, iterate, test and implement the Inductive Vehicle Charging Pilot along a one-mile stretch of state-operated roadway in Wayne, Oakland or Macomb counties.”

[Images: Michigan.gov]

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33 Comments on “Michigan to Build EV Charging Stations for Scenic Drives, Inductive Roads...”


  • avatar
    Rboz

    I had an idea while driving in the middle of the mitten this weekend.
    There is a war brewing for farm land being sold for solar farms and/or windmills.

    Why can’t they raise the solar panels 20 feet in the air over parking lots at Wallyworld or malls.

    It would be a win/win/win. Farmland, solar power, and covered parking.

    • 0 avatar
      28-Cars-Later

      “It would be a win/win/win. Farmland, solar power, and covered parking.”

      I’m on board for covered parking alone, I suppose not starving is also a plus.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      @Rboz: It’s called agrivoltaics and is a good idea. Another idea would be to put panels over highways.

      https://www.nrel.gov/news/program/2019/benefits-of-agrivoltaics-across-the-food-energy-water-nexus.html

      https://solargrazing.org/

    • 0 avatar
      Imagefont

      It’s a brilliant idea. Solar panels, if you’re going to have them, should be right on top of the buildings that need the power, like every factory roof and every warehouse and Walmart and Target and mall and residence. Use the power right there without using a lot of copper to bus it all over the place. The panels should be everywhere on every building. This is possible and practical.

    • 0 avatar
      jalop1991

      42R3+JG Columbus, Ohio

      Switch to satellite view.

      Done, and done. Multiple problems solved.

  • avatar
    tankinbeans

    Would the inductive charging generate a certain amount of heat, with the side benefit of reducing the need for plowing? I gather that it’s an idea to test at this point, but I’ve never dealt with wireless charging for any length of time.

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      In the depths of winter, you’ll go at least a couple days in a row without the sun coming out!

      Not to mention that the west coast of Michigan is absolutely slammed with lake-effect snow from mid-November until enough ice forms on Lake Michigan to stop the evaporation cycle which causes it. Particularly in the northwest corner around Traverse City, which is where I assume she wants to plop that inductive charge piece!

      Hell, if you have GSM cellular service, you’re pretty much SOL throughout most of the Lower Peninsula from roughly Grayling and north; it’s even a little sketchy in Traverse City itself! They should at least get reliable cellular coverage along I-75, U.S. 27, M-32, M-22, and other routes to the major tourist areas before they start ripping up roads to allow enroute EV charging!

      • 0 avatar
        tankinbeans

        I hadn’t thought of lake effect snow. I imagine folks in Northern Minnesota deal with it, and often hear about “The Hill” in Duluth creating issues. Down here in and around Minneapolis/St. Paul it’s pretty flat and boring with our tiny lakes not really causing issues. Winters here aren’t what they once were, even in my memory. If you talk to a local about heavy snowfall you’re likely to hear about Halloween of ’91, which is just far enough back that I don’t have strong memories, having been only 3.

        I confess to not knowing details about how many things work and get curious.

  • avatar
    redapple

    1- Why does Gretch always look greasy ?
    Every
    single
    picture.
    2- Is it true there were more EFF BEE EYE agents (in that gang that was to kidnap her) than backward michigan hillbillies?
    3- Is it true that the same EFF BEE EYE Supervisor that oversaw this michigan skam was in charge of the EFF BEE EYE agents imbedded in the proud boys + antifa + balck rice matter jan 6 riot.?

  • avatar
    EBFlex

    Good thing it doesn’t snow in Michigan.

    These people are fools.

  • avatar
    Kendahl

    More chargers, put in areas now without them, are a great idea. It wasn’t Tesla’s cars that made BEV ownership feasible. It was their Supercharger network that enabled owners to make long highway trips. In fly over country, it’s still hard to charge your BEV if you get far from an interstate.

    Inductive charging built into the road is a dumb idea, a pipe dream at best. No BEV in production or being planned supports it.

    • 0 avatar
      SCE to AUX

      “Inductive charging built into the road is a dumb idea, a pipe dream at best. No BEV in production or being planned supports it.”

      +1

      The infrastructure cost would be untenable.

      Importantly, I’d want a way for my EV to *not* use it. A constantly full battery is death to that battery, at least lithium ion.

  • avatar
    jalop1991

    Wait a minute–Gretchen “Lockdown for thee, open waters for me” Whitmer?

    Her lips are moving. Nothing to report here. Move along.

  • avatar
    picard234

    She can’t even “fix the damn roads” as they are, and DTE cannot keep the lights on even in the mildest of storms. So we are going to have inductive highways? LOLOLOOLOLOL

    • 0 avatar
      sgeffe

      See my post above, if you don’t have CDMA (Verizon, et. al.) cell service, you’re screwed in Northern Michigan, and IIRC, even THAT’S a crapshoot! I went up to Leland, MI last year, and thank goodness for my Accord’s built-in navigation, because on I-75 north of the Grayling area, and anyplace but in Traverse City proper, CarPlay was a blank screen with T-Mobile GSM!

      • 0 avatar
        jalop1991

        CDMA and GSM don’t exist anymore. You’re back in your grampa’s days.

        They all use LTE and 5G (various flavors). It’s not about the technology anymore; it’s about the carrier’s attention to the territory.

        https://www.fcc.gov/BroadbandData/MobileMaps/mobile-map

        Verizon seems to have Michigan well covered, more so for voice in the UP than for data, but still.

        AT&T is spottier, and T-Mobile spottier still. So it looks like VZW is the carrier of choice for the most flexibility traveling around Michigan.

        But it’s not because of CDMA. It’s because of Verizon. And you pay for that privilege.

        • 0 avatar
          sgeffe

          I thought that base network topology is still either CDMA or GSM in the United States. GSM is pretty much standard everywhere else.

          You could be getting 5G, sure, but if it’s on CDMA, that’s the only signal available where you happen to be, and your active carrier uses GSM (T-Mobile, et. al.), your phone is going to say “No Service!”

  • avatar

    Forget about solar. Radioisotope thermoelectric generator is the best solution and will last for the life of vehicle, and also can be used to power house in case of blackout. It easily can fit under the hood and be recycled. Also the thermonuclear power is around the corner.

  • avatar
    Jeff S

    At least adding more charge stations make owning and traveling in an EV more feasible. Whether you like EVs or not expanding the charging infrastructure is important for expanding EV ownership.

  • avatar
    TooManyCars

    From the EIA we learn that Michigan generates it’s electricity from natural gas (33%), nuclear (29%), coal (27%), other sources (11%). So, 60 percent of the juice delivered at the new EV charging stations will be from fossil fuels, ignoring transmission losses. Put another way, driving a pure EV on Michigan electricity will only save 40% of the CO2 that you think it will.

    • 0 avatar
      mcs

      “driving a pure EV on Michigan electricity will only save 40% of the CO2 that you think it will.”

      There’s a retirement schedule for most of those plants, so the 40% figure is wrong. You could also get solar.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “But Whitmer and company aren’t plotting to build anything just yet. According to The Detroit News, the government wants to spend 2021 on a feasibility study aimed at determining whether or not this is a good idea.”

    Newspeak for: We are going to drum up some mindless excuse for taking tax money from productive people, and hand it hand-over-fist to utterly useless deadweight leeches who will produce nothing at all, but instead just sit around having opinions about what other people “should” do, with other people’s money.

    If even that: Most of the loot will ultimately end up with people who do flat out nothing, aside from “owning” the “firms” the “consultants” “work” for. And who collect unearned rent to provide the leeches with fancy downtown offices to sit around and mindlessly do nothing productive in.

  • avatar
    stuki

    “Gov. Whitmer has also introduced an initiative to develop the nation’s first wireless charging infrastructure on public roads at Motor Bella this month. ”

    The exact mechanism for how to most efficiently and reliably enable some form of inflight powering and charging is certainly still up in the air.

    What it not, is the absolute requirement for such “hot highways” for pure EVs to have even the remotest chance of ever becoming generally viable. Dragging an infinite number of pounds of rare earths around, so that the weight can crush everything driven across and the cost of the steamroller can render most people carless, is so trivially idiotic that even a Michigan politician can recognize it.

    Without the high draw portion of trips being powered directly by the infrastructure while leaving only last mile to (always topped up) inefficient battery storage, BEVs are, like every other time they have been tried, a complete, and trivially obvious, dead end.

    The lure of (segregated) hot highways, in addition to reducing local emissions and perhaps soda bubbles (not really but we’re all Pretenders now…), is that they as a side effect allows accurate pinpointing of everything on them. Which also renders automatic routing/driving possible. At much higher speeds and densities than if reliant on human driver input.

    Downsides being, ultimately, security related. I wouldn’t want to try keeping the required infrastructure up and running in rural Afghanistan, to put it That way.

    But barring that, you can make cars awfully weight and space efficient, hence overall efficient consumers of resources, by moving all high speed operation onto “guaranteed safe,” fully powered infrastructures. Leaving crash structures, brakes etc. to deal with slow-moving last mile scenarios instead. As well as allowing drivers to spend 90% of their trips doing something other than piloting a car.

    The potential gains are utterly tremendous, if the security and uptime issues can be dealt with. Enormous enough that they won’t be denied for long, now that global populations are so big that efficiency of resource utilization is coming back into relevance again.

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