Dave Edwin doesn’t think he’ll ever buy another gas-powered vehicle.
The Livonia resident is on his second Tesla and uses it as an everyday car. He loves the feel of the ride and the savings that come with it.
“They were more exciting to drive,” he said. “I was driving an SUV, which was kind of slow and not very sporty. I wanted to get a Tesla because it’s like a sports car.”
According to the United States Department of Energy, Edwin is among the 80% of electric vehicle owners that mostly charge their cars at home. For Edwin, it’s more convenient.
But as the automotive industry continues trending toward electric vehicles, he thinks more chargers in public places would be a good thing.
“There’s a possibility now, with the infrastructure as it is, where somebody could be stranded without preplanning,” he said. “With planning, I think people are fine. It’s not like gas stations, which are everywhere.”
As metro Detroit communities see more electric vehicle drivers headed through and living in their cities, some are taking steps to prepare for the day when most people drive an electric vehicle.
Trying to get ahead of the curve
Cities like Farmington Hills and Livonia expect to see a much higher demand for electric vehicle charging options over the next decade. And it seems they have every reason to anticipate that.
“Going forward, we know the production of electric vehicles will be the predominant vehicle in the marketplace,” said Joe Valentine, assistant city manager for Farmington Hills. “The infrastructure is going to have to be there for that to be supported.”
According to charger tracking websites like ChargeHub and PlugShare, Farmington Hills, Novi and Livonia have the most opportunities for EV drivers to charge up outside the home in Hometown Life’s coverage region, which includes western Wayne and Oakland counties.
Valentine said, in Farmington Hills, it’s mostly because of the business community, which includes several major auto and technology companies.
One of the largest pockets of electric vehicle charging in the area is at the Nissan Technical Center in Farmington Hills. The campus includes two parking lots equipped with chargers, though some are for employees only.
Farmington Hills also encourages incoming developers to make chargers a feature of their proposals to the city.
“As new developments are coming forward through the PUD process, the city is encouraging the installation of charging stations as part of those developments,” Valentine said.
In Livonia, the city has made efforts to educate residents about what owning an electric vehicle is like. The city’s Greenleaf Commission has been promoting education of electric vehicles since 2019 and has held events where residents could ride in a Chevy Volt or Tesla Model 3.
“A lot of people took the opportunity to actually ride in an EV for the first time,” Greenleaf Commission Chair Jim Baringhaus said. “To them, it was an eye-opening experience. I was watching people get out of the cars after their test ride, and they were smiling.”
Local leaders say there are benefits to getting ahead of the curve and creating electric vehicle infrastructure that makes living in and visiting the area easier.
“You’re addressing a demand that can’t currently be met,” Valentine said. “The demand for electric vehicles is there, but people are predominantly having to charge them at their homes. If you have an environment where people can go out to charge at public and private venues throughout the community, it makes the use of that technology a lot more productive.”
According to ChargeHub, nearby communities like Farmington, Plymouth and Northville also have a fair amount of chargers while communities like South Lyon, Westland, Canton and Milford have fewer options.
Creating publicly-owned charging hubs
Some cities, like Westland, offer chargers on city property. Westland installed a charger with two ports at city hall in 2015 and recently purchased a Ford Lightning for its police department. The city doesn’t see a large demand for vehicle charging but wants to promote the green aspects of electric vehicles.
“At the end of the day, it’s more environmentally sustainable and we’re trying to do what we can do to help out the environment,” said Devin Adams, the city’s controller.
Valentine said one of the next steps for Farmington Hills is creating public charging options. The city is undergoing a master planning process, and Valentine expects charging to be part of those discussions.
“You won’t have a barrier to use because you won’t have a limit to how far you can drive and where you can charge,” he said.
The Greenleaf Commission in Livonia is having similar discussions. Mayor Maureen Miller Brosnan requested the commission look at EV infrastructure in 2022, and Baringhaus said the group’s research is ongoing. Greenleaf can make recommendations to the mayor but does not make decisions.
“I think it would be good for visitors to the city and even residents to a degree,” he said. “If you have level two charging, you can basically charge it in 30 minutes to an hour. Let’s say you’re at the rec center for an hour – that’s 30 to 60 miles you can put in your vehicle.”
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Contact reporter Shelby Tankersley at email@example.com or 248-305-0448. Follow her on Twitter @shelby_tankk.