Legislative Update: Electric Vehicle Charging Station Bills

A package of five bills related to electric vehicle charging stations was taken up by the House Energy Committee on Tuesday, June 8th, 2021. House Bills 4801 and 4802 would create a requirement for people operating electric vehicle charging stations to register with the state and set in law that electric vehicle charging stations are not classified as a public utility and thus could financially charge consumers by the unit of electricity consumed. House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 would create the legal framework to allow electric vehicle charging at rest areas in Michigan. Currently, federal and Michigan law prohibits commercial entities from highway rest areas.

Clean Fuels Michigan Executive Director Jane McCurry testified before the committee to show support for the advancement of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Her full testimony is below:

Testimony before the House Energy Committee: House Bills 4801, 4802, 4803, 4804, 4805

Chair Bellino and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Jane McCurry, and I am the Executive Director of Clean Fuels Michigan.

Clean Fuels Michigan is a nonprofit trade organization advancing the future of clean transportation in Michigan. We advocate for policies and programs that support the transition to cleaner and zero-emission fuels.

We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Schroeder, Kuppa, Bellino, LaGrand, and Damoose, in addition to all the other bill sponsors and committee members. We are pleased to support smart and timely policies to prepare Michigan’s charging infrastructure to meet the needs of consumers and the electric vehicle industry.

Clean Fuels Michigan has particular interest in House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 related to rest area electric vehicle charging, so I will focus my testimony on those three bills, of which we are excitedly supportive.

Clean Fuels Michigan Supports House Bills 4803, 4804, 4805

Consumers and fleets have more options than ever before to purchase an electric vehicle that fits their needs. Every major auto manufacturer, including many with headquarters and facilities right here in Michigan, is pledging billions of dollars to develop, market, and manufacture compelling electric vehicles. However, electric vehicles made up only 0.82% of new light-duty vehicle sales in Michigan in 2020.

Electric vehicle drivers primarily recharge their vehicles at home, overnight. However, on longer trips that exceed the range of the vehicle, fast and convenient recharging infrastructure is needed. In fact, the lack of public charging infrastructure is an often-cited reason for consumers to choose not to drive an electric vehicle.

The buildout of fast and convenient electric vehicle charging stations is necessary to allow Michiganders and Michigan’s many visitors to get wherever they please in an electric vehicle with confidence. And equally as important, policies to promote electric vehicles and adequate charging infrastructure show that Michigan is serious about continuing to be the home of the automotive industry.

Automakers and other experts also tell us that the infrastructure deployment must begin now, while electric vehicle adoption is relatively low. In part, this is because many prospective buyers need to see chargers in action to give them the confidence to purchase an electric vehicle. But more simply: planning, permitting, and construction of electric vehicle chargers takes time, and chargers need to be installed and ready to meet the increased demand that we expect over the next few years.

House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 give Michigan another tool in the toolbelt of electric vehicle recharging. Rest areas and welcome centers are close to the highway and could offer electric vehicle drivers a convenient place to recharge, use the facilities, and continue on their way. We see no reason to leave creative and compelling options, like this one, behind.

Michigan should be a national leader in clean transportation.

House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 offer Michigan the opportunity to lead and be one of the first states to enact policies to allow electric vehicle charging at rest areas. Conversations about using the highway right of way for renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicle refueling are ongoing, and we are excited to see Michigan emerge as a leader in that conversation. We encourage the bill sponsors to continue to work with MDOT and FHWA to stay up to date on any federal guidance regarding electric vehicle charging and use of the highway rights of way.

We look forward to building on this conversation to support electric vehicle drivers and fleets in many more ways. Michigan has the know-how, the skills, and the stakeholders to make the next generation of transportation innovation our legacy – one that is cleaner, more equitable, and beneficial for all residents. We are excited to work with you on these bills and additional opportunities to advance Michigan’s clean transportation leadership.

General Motors signals big shift with EV fleet plans 

Michigan’s clean energy future was electrified with the news General Motors aims to transition to an all-electric light-duty truck and SUV fleet by 2035, Clean Fuels Michigan said today.

In effort to reach its goal, GM began a new campaign, “EVerybody in,” and debuted a Super Bowl advertisement where Will Ferrell says that Norway sells “way more” electric cars than the United States. In Norway, 60% of new cars sold are electric, compared to only 2% in the United States. 

General Motors is a member of Clean Fuels Michigan – a group of leading companies and organizations advancing the clean transportation industry in Michigan. 

“This is the first time a major legacy auto manufacturer has committed to phasing out gasoline vehicles entirely,” said Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan. “Consumers are demanding more electric vehicles because they are faster, quieter and cheaper to operate and offer a better driving experience. GM realizes that and is stepping up to the plate.” 

“GM’s announcement is an exciting step toward helping the state of Michigan reach its 2050 net zero goal,” said Benjamin Burns, director of marketing and electrification for DTE Energy.  

“The landscape is shifting toward cleaner, advanced vehicles, and GM’s announcement is yet another example of the shifting tailwinds,” said Charles Griffith, director of the climate & energy program for Ecology Center. “Transitioning to all-electric vehicles will help Michigan’s economy while cleaning our air and water and creating healthier communities.” 

Clean Fuels Michigan noted that like other technology, the transition to electric vehicles will happen fast. For example, in 1990, 2% of Americans had a cell phone while by 2010, more than 92% of people in the United States had a cell phone.

Ford and GM Investing Big in Michigan for Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Over the past few weeks, Ford and GM announced investments in Michigan manufacturing facilities and new electric vehicle models. Together, they are investing over $3 billion in electric and autonomous vehicle manufacturing in Michigan.

Ford Commits to E-mobility in Michigan, Announces the E-Transit

Ford is investing $850 million into the Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights and the River Rouge Complex in Dearborn to manufacture electric vehicles. All told, these investments will add or retain 725 Michigan jobs. The Van Dyke facility will assemble e-motors and e-transaxles for electric vehicles and the Rouge Plant will produce the all-electric F-150.

Ford also unveiled the E-Transit last week, offering fleets an all-electric option of their popular delivery vehicle. The E-Transit will offer customers software and data services that can help to manage their fleets. The E-Transit release is expected in 2021.

GM is Accelerating EV Investments, Unveils the Hummer EV

GM aims to release 20 electric vehicles by 2023, and thanks to strategic partnerships and technology investments, they are on track to exceed their goal. The Hummer EV was unveiled in late October and is being dubbed “the world’s first supertruck.” The all-electric Hummer is slated to go to production by the end of 2021.

General Motors also announced that they are rebranding their Detroit-Hamtramck plant to “Factory Zero.” GM will spend $2.2 billion to retrofit the facility for zero-emission and autonomous vehicles, and will start calling back workers to the plant in the New Year.

In addition to the Factory Zero investments, GM is also investing $150 million in five additional Michigan facilities. Two of those facilities – Orion Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly – will be used to produce self-driving Cruise Vehicles. Cruise is using the Chevrolet Bolt as the basis for their autonomous vehicles.

Renewable Propane: An Opportunity for Michigan to Lead

Propane gas serves an important role in Michigan’s energy economy. Michigan uses more propane for residential heating than any other state, and Michigan fleets are increasingly looking at propane to provide financial and environmental benefits for their fleet operations. Nationwide, there are about 200,000 vehicles that use propane, from school buses to police fleets, taxicabs, delivery vehicles, and more. That number is growing quickly. ICOM North America, ROUSH CleanTech, and many other businesses in Michigan have invented new and innovative solutions to bring propane vehicles to our roadways in increasing numbers.

Renewable Propane is a Near-Zero Carbon Solution

Renewable propane is providing a new opportunity in the propane market and unknown to many people – renewable propane is not a fossil fuel – it’s made from renewable materials like waste fats and cooking oils. The molecular structure of renewable propane is identical to traditional propane, which means the industry already knows how it will behave and how to use it efficiently.

Renewable propane also has all of the transportation benefits of traditional propane:

  • Cleaner burning, resulting in less air pollution than gasoline or diesel.
  • Affordable and easy refueling, so you can save money without hassle.
  • Domestic source of fuel, meaning we don’t need to rely on imports.

Plus, renewable propane offers a virtually carbon-neutral solution, which is important given Michigan’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Fleets looking for alternative fuels can use renewable propane to save money, reduce emissions, and help Michigan to reach our energy and environmental goals.

As the supply of renewable propane increases, Michigan should be a leader in renewable propane sourcing and use. One avenue to do so is through the proposed Propane Commission, which is laid out in Senate Bill 1133. SB1133 seeks to promote propane as an alternative fuel by updating the definition of retail propane and by creating a Propane Commission to “foster, develop, and promote the sale and safe use of propane.”