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Consumers, DTE to expand EV charger network in Michigan

A blue EV being plugged in
A plug-in vehicle on display at an Earth Day EV car show in Kalamazoo. (Bridge photo by Mark Bugnaski)
  • Consumers Energy will help install 1,500 public fast-chargers by 2030
  • That’s a 44% increase in the number of public chargers in Michigan
  • The state remains far behind its goal of installing 100,000 public chargers by 2030

Michigan utilities say they’re stepping up efforts to expand the state’s electric vehicle charging network, which remains a patchwork and woefully behind stated goals.

Consumers Energy announced Monday that it plans to help build 1,500 publicly-accessible fast chargers by 2030, as part of a new Transportation Electrification Plan filed with state utility regulators.

DTE Energy filed a similar plan in January, targeting 620 public fast chargers in its territory by 2028.

The commitments represent a significant bump for Michigan, which today only has fewer than 3,400 publicly-accessible charging ports. Some 780 are the superfast kind that can refuel a car in minutes rather than hours.


By the state’s own estimate, it needs 100,000 publicly accessible chargers, including 10,000 fast chargers, by 2030, to support 2 million EVs on the road.

But as Bridge Michigan has reported, the state is far behind in building out a network. and it’s not clear how it will reach its 2030 goal. 

The outcome has huge implications for the state’s environment and economy, given that gas-powered cars are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions and a charger shortage is dissuading consumers from switching to EVs.

Here’s what to know:

Michigan’s way behind:

Achieving 100,000 chargers by the deadline would mean installing 48 public chargers a day, every day, for the next five and a half years.

Michigan is nowhere near that pace. The state added 335 total charging stations last year.


Michigan’s slow charger rollout is a risk to both the climate and jobs: The state’s economy remains heavily dependent on auto manufacturing, and automakers can only sell EVs as fast as consumers are willing to buy them. 

The fear of getting stranded on a road trip with nowhere to charge is “one of the main factors that impact consumers’ decisions about whether to purchase an electric vehicle,” said Cristina Benton, a consultant with Anderson Economic Group.

Utilities are key to catching up

Michigan’s new climate law and other state policies require utilities to shift to clean energy by mid-century, while preparing for their systems to absorb new electricity demand from EVs.

As part of that push, utilities have begun aggressively subsidizing the build-out of EV chargers. In addition to the money dedicated to public chargers, Michigan’s major utilities have launched rebate programs for customers to install chargers at homes and businesses (read more about DTE’s program and Consumers’ program). 

Beyond helping utilities fulfill their legal requirements, investing in chargers makes financial sense, said Brian Wheeler, a spokesperson for Consumers Energy.

“There's a strong business case in a lot of ways,” he said. 

First, state-regulated utilities enjoy a guaranteed rate-of-return on the money they spend expanding the state’s charging network.

Second, more EV charging leads to more electricity consumption, particularly at night when power plants have plenty of extra capacity. 

The added demand benefits ratepayers by adding new customers to share infrastructure maintenance costs, thereby lowering rates for everyone.

Milena Kabashi, transportation electrification manager with DTE Energy, said the utility plans to spend $145 million on charger rebates through 2028 — an investment that will bring customers $56 million in benefits.

“We see that EVs are coming, and we as a utility play an important role,” she said.

But utility and public money still isn’t enough

But even with utilities’ contribution, Michigan is still well short of the number of chargers experts say it needs.

An influx of $110 million in federal money for chargers should alleviate (but not solve) the problem. 

At an average price of $134,000 per plug, that money is expected to buy about 800 plug points statewide.

That leaves Michigan still tens of thousands of chargers short of its 2030 goal, even with the newly-announced utility spending.

The hope is that eventually, there will be enough EVs on Michigan roads to make charging a lucrative business, prompting private investors to build chargers without need for subsidies.


“The trend (of rising EV adoption) is going to continue,” said Wheeler of Consumers Energy. “And that’s not just going to drive Consumers Energy to be involved. But you're going to see a point where it's going to happen more with retailers, gas stations.”

The true number is a moving target

Despite the state’s 100,000 goal, it’s difficult to pinpoint exactly how many public chargers Michigan needs.

The target changes by the day as technology advances and driving habits change.

For instance, today’s average EV has a 270-mile range, and the average fast-charger takes 20 minutes to an hour to refuel a vehicle. But ranges are expanding while charging times decline. Both of those advancements will reduce the need for chargers.

Even so, Michigan will need more public chargers if EV owners aren’t disciplined about charging at home, or heeding the “stop at 80%” rule when charging in public.

Utility officials are watching all of those changes, and planning to adjust their EV charging programs as needed.

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