VW settlement funds spark electric vehicle charging station expansion

In 2015 it was discovered that Volkswagen had intentionally cheated U.S. emissions tests. But that unfortunate story has a happy ending, as the state of Michigan is now creating a public network of electric vehicle (EV) charging stations as a result.

 

As a result of Volkswagen’s admission that the company installed emissions control defeat devices in some of its diesel vehicles, the federal government received an approximate $2.8 billion settlement for the deception and environmental harm caused.

 

That settlement has since been divided among the 50 states, District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico. Michigan has been awarded more than $64 million in the settlement.

 

The money awarded will be used in a variety of ways, but all with the intent to reduce emissions from gas-powered vehicles and increase the adoption of and infrastructure for zero-emission vehicles.

 

Of the myriad ways Michigan will use the Volkswagen settlement money – such as diesel engine swap-outs and electric school buses – over $9.7 million, or 15 percent of the settlement, has been allocated to light-duty zero-emission vehicle supply equipment. That means building out EV charging stations.

 

“There are a number of projects but right now we’re most focused on light-duty electric vehicle infrastructure,” says Robert Jackson, director of the Michigan Energy Office. “… This is all predicated on what we believe to be the technology of the future.”

 

The state is working with utility companies DTE Energy and Consumers Energy on the EV charging station rollout. Each charging station will be funded in thirds: partly through the state’s VW settlement money, partly through contributions from the utility companies, and partly through the organizations that apply to host the stations.

 

The application process for host sites is currently underway, with the first sites to be announced later this month. It could take just a few weeks for the first charging stations to appear in metro Detroit once announced.

 

The exact number of stations to be added is currently unavailable as the Michigan Energy Office completes its urban analysis. Jackson estimates the office will be able to achieve "fairly significant coverage" with 70 stations and 300 charging outlets. Overall, the Michigan Energy Office aims to create a network of charging stations robust enough to ease drivers’ worries that they’ll be able to successfully reach their destinations, encouraging wider adoption of EVs in the process.

 

In metro Detroit, that means more and more stations will begin popping up in all kinds of places, from office towers to city parks, restaurants to shopping malls. But especially in downtown areas, including Detroit, Jackson says it’s imperative to install rapid charging stations so drivers can pull up to a convenience store, park and shop for 10 minutes, and come out to a sufficiently charged vehicle.

 

On the highways, expect charging stations to be placed outside of rest stops and exit ramps, just like gas stations. Jackson says a state tourism analysis shows that Michigan needs 67 charging stations with nearly 300 charging outlets to support statewide highway travel, ensuring that drivers can safely travel from Benton Harbor to Toronto or from Detroit to Marquette.

 

“By the end of the summer, we will see a sufficient number of charging stations in the metro area. And by the next (North American International Auto Show), you will find a plethora of charging stations in the area,” Jackson says. “And by next summer this time, you will be able to drive worry-free of range anxiety.”

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