The four gas-pump-like electric vehicle charging stations at Detroit’s Beacon Park are more than a convenience for the region’s electric vehicle owners.
They’re also promoting awareness of electric vehicles (EVs), a small but growing segment of the automobile market in Michigan. The chargers were installed as part of a project called the ChargeD initiative, involving DTE Energy and the private, public, and philanthropic sectors.
“We have found through studies and research that just having the charging stations there, available for people to see and available for charging, has caught people’s attention,” says Brett Steudle, senior strategist for DTE Energy. “If you’re thinking about wanting to buy an electric vehicle, you realize this is an option.”
The chargers are the first of their kind deployed in the city. They became operational at DTE Energy’s Beacon Park in September. The ChargePoint DC fast chargers enable EV owners to quickly charge their vehicles while enjoying the park, conducting business downtown, or dining at nearby restaurants. They can also learn about the benefits of EV and mobility technologies. There is a two-hour limit on the charging stations.
The charging stations are helping place downtown Detroit on the map for EV technology and infrastructure deployment. Future plans call for adding two charging stations at Capitol Park, closer to downtown. Other possibilities will be explored in the future.
DTE is planning activities and events at the park to promote further awareness of EVs. Steudle says there are about 4,000 battery-electric vehicles in DTE’s service territory, which covers much of southeast Michigan and the Thumb region. The number of EVs in the territory is expected to increase by 15-20% in the next few years.
Sales will be buoyed by a greater selection of EV models on the market and lower prices; EV prices are expected to drop as the cost of batteries continues to fall. Currently, there are not a lot of EV models available in Michigan, but Ford’s new EV Mustang and GM’s release of a fully electric pickup truck are generating more interest in EVs.
Charging stations like those in Beacon Park will make EVs more driveable and convenient for motorists. Typically, most drivers won’t need a full charge to get to and from work. Most people will do their full charging at home, but charging stations in places like Beacon Park can help them get enough charge to get through the day.
“It will be like stopping at a gas station,” Steudle says.
Additionally, there is hope that shared mobility services like Lyft and Uber will embrace the EV market. Lyft recently announced that it was adding 200 EVs to its Denver fleet. Charging stations like those in Beacon Park would allow drivers to stop and charge their EVs while transporting customers – and not have to worry about exhausting a full charge on their trips.
“We think there is a huge opportunity in Detroit to do something similar,” Steudle says.
DTE’s Charging Forward program also provides investment in residential, commercial, and fleet EV charging infrastructure. Part of the focus is on providing charging stations for workplace and multi-unit dwellings, enabling residents of those buildings to have the same opportunities to charge as single-family homes. The program also offers $500 rebates to consumers who install charging stations.
“We’re excited. We think the future of EVs is going to be big for Detroit and the charging stations will help quite a bit with their adoption in this area,” Steudle says. “We think there is a big future for EVs.”