Toward a zero emissions future

This story was originally posted in the January issue of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Detroiter magazine. Read more at
Car buyers have more choices than ever when it comes to the selection of electric vehicles (EV) on the market, and sales of EVs continue to grow. EVs have become more stylish, less expensive and for green-minded consumers, they’re the perfect antidote to fossil-fuel-burning vehicles. What’s not to like about a vehicle that creates zero emissions?

Despite positive changes in the market and the obvious environmental benefits, hurdles remain. DTE Energy is hoping to change that. The Detroit-based utility sees a future in which EV owners can charge not only at home, but also at the workplace, as well as public parking garages and lots, commercial establishments and well-traveled streets and highways.


This past summer, the utility unveiled its aptly named “Charging Forward” pilot program, the largest EV charging infrastructure pilot in the Midwest.

“The core of most charging will still happen at home and at the workplace but these need to be complemented by other locations,” said Camilo Serna, vice president of corporate strategy for DTE Energy. “If you travel far away from home, you need the additional infrastructure and the additional network to support that.”

The pilot program includes $13 million over three years for investment in residential, commercial and fleet EV charging infrastructure. Part of the program is focused on charging stations for workplace and multi-unit dwellings, enabling residents of those buildings to have the same opportunities to charge as single-family homes. DTE also plans to offer $500 rebates to consumers to install charging stations.

“At least for the future, most of the charging will still happen at home,” Serna said. “It makes a lot of sense for these vehicles to charge when they’re idle or parked. The second place you need to charge is the workplace.”

Consumer Awareness

Customer education about the benefits of EVs is part of the effort. While many are aware of plug-in vehicles, they were unfamiliar how chargers work, their location, and the costs involved.

The benefits of EVs are many, according to DTE and environmental groups, including reducing barriers to EV adoptions, curtailing utility rates and efficiently integrating the EV load within the current electric distribution system. A study commissioned by Charge Up Midwest, a partnership of environmental and clean energy organizations, showed expanding EV use could save Michigan billions over the next three decades.

Environmental groups are applauding DTE’s proposal, which is awaiting approval by the Michigan Public Service Commission, as smart policy.

“Michigan and the Motor City need to take bold action to put us on a path to a clean car future,” said Joe Halso, an associate attorney for the Sierra Club. “DTE’s proposal is a step in the right direction. We would like to see a program that maximizes the public health and electricity grid benefits that we know electric cars can deliver.”

Greg Tasker is a metro Detroit freelance writer.
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