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Eric McDonald, Director, Testing & Infrastructure Development

By Eric McDonald,
Director, Testing & Infrastructure Development

On Dec. 2, 2020, NextEnergy held the Michigan UP EV Readiness Workshop. The workshop, sponsored by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy, was held online with 80 attendees. From statewide interactions with its Charge Up Michigan program, EGLE noticed that the UP was underrepresented and underserved in electric vehicle programs and events and became determined to proactively reach these communities. The Michigan UP EV Readiness Workshop was created to ensure the UP was included in the nascent EV industry in Michigan.

Jim Saber, president and CEO of NextEnergy, opened the event with the goals of introducing the audience to electric vehicles and EV charging benefits, disseminating the findings of the state EV charging study, sharing requirements for installing EV charging equipment and informing the audience of what incentives are available for EV charging infrastructure. Saber introduced the participants to the workshop discussions and presenters: Tim Slusser and Eric McDonald of NextEnergy, Mehrnaz Ghamami of Michigan State University, Brett Niemi of WPPI Energy, Mike Heise of Cloverland Electric Cooperative, Brett French of Upper Peninsula Power Company and Julie Staveland of EGLE.

Tim Slusser, director of NextEnergy’s Smart Mobility Initiatives, began the workshop sessions with an EV charging technologies overview and discussed the benefits of EVs versus petroleum-fueled vehicles, such as lower fuel costs when comparing miles per kilowatt hour of electricity to miles per gallon of gasoline. There are lower maintenance costs, as there are fewer moving parts in the EV engine compared to the internal combustion engine, and there are no greenhouse gas exhausts. Slusser then explained the types and benefits of different charging categories — levels one, two and three, the latter known otherwise as DC fast charging, or DCFC. Wrapping up, he provided business models of EV charging, detailing costs for miles per kWh in comparison to costs for miles per gallon, as well as advertising revenues and other fee potential through EV chargers.

Dr. Mehrnaz Ghamami, assistant professor at MSU’s College of Engineering, followed with her presentation of findings from the university’s study for EGLE, The Electric Vehicle Charger Placement Optimization Project. Dr. Ghamami defined MSU’s approach to move Michigan toward a carbon-neutral future through EV adoption. The main initiatives to support EV travel are to identify the best locations to install EV charging units and how many to install at each location. The study was divided into three phases — phase one for intercity trips, phase two for intra-urban trips and phase three for storage systems. Dr. Ghamami’s presentation covered findings from phase one, which showed that solutions for optimal placement of EV chargers could be determined depending on which of the two EV batteries was utilized, 70 kWh or 100 kWh, and which of two DCFC chargers was used, 50 kW or 150 kW. Dr. Ghamami explained the results and took participants through location node maps of optimal charger placement throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsulas. Study results will be used to inform EGLE on siting EV chargers funded through their Charge Up Michigan program. This informative study can be found on EGLE’s website.

Eric McDonald, director of testing and infrastructure development for NextEnergy, presented What to Know Before You Break Ground on Infrastructure Deployments. McDonald explored points to be aware of before starting EV charger installation, explaining what to plan for from governments, including awareness of zoning requirements and building code requirements. One should be aware of real estate requirements, such as possible restrictions and covenants on the property. Electric vehicle supply equipment operators need to define the ownership of the EVSE, whether it will be owned or leased to a separate operator, and should meet with their electric power provider or utility, who will let the operator know about onsite power and the capacity available for charging. McDonald further explained that it will be important to know how the operator will be billed for the electricity used by the charger, and that the best way to track electricity use would be to meter the EV charger separate from other electricity uses on the property. Operators must be aware that EV charging will likely usher in demand charges, which may amount to almost half of an electric bill. Most sites will be suited for level-two charging, as it requires 240-volt one-phase power. DCFC will require 480-volt three-phase power.

Next, Tim Slusser moderated the How UP Utilities Are Getting EV Infrastructure Ready panel discussion, with panelists including Brett Niemi, senior energy services manager of WPPI Energy; Mike Heise, president and CEO of Cloverland Electric Cooperative; and Brett French, vice president of business development and communications for Upper Peninsula Power Company. Panelists answered a series of questions around topics like special rate cases for EV charging, effects of demand charges on interest in EV charging, the lead time from contacting the utility to work starting for EV charger installation and a number of other questions. To hear the engaging discussion on UP utilities’ involvement in moving EV charging forward, visit our UP EV Readiness Workshop landing page.

Julie Staveland, state energy program specialist for EGLE’s Energy Services division, delivered the final presentation. Staveland gave an overview of the Charge Up Michigan program, which provides incentives for EV charging infrastructure. The goal of the program is to increase installation of EV chargers throughout Michigan, with a focus on DCFC. Staveland relayed that the State will provide up to $70,000 per charging site, and is looking for shared funding at each site between the State, the local utility and the site operator. To date, there are 56 sites approved for funding through this program. EGLE will review applications for charging stations until all funding has been allocated.

NextEnergy brought together UP utilities, the State of Michigan EV funding program manager, the author of the study on optimal siting of EV chargers and NextEnergy specialists for a highly informative session on EV charging and the possibilities in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The three-hour workshop moved at an engaging pace, and a majority of attendees were present and accounted for, with a minimal drop in attendance. Questions came in at a steady rate. For those interested in finding out more, see the NextEnergy website for the slides and the workshop.

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