New fast-charging stations in Washington Township grow EV infrastructure – The Macomb Daily

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New fast-charging stations in Washington Township grow EV infrastructure – The Macomb Daily

The future of vehicle propulsion is electric, and stakeholders in Macomb County are trying to make sure those energy needs are being met in the presen

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The future of vehicle propulsion is electric, and stakeholders in Macomb County are trying to make sure those energy needs are being met in the present.

The Towns Mart Marathon Center on 32 Mile Road and M-53 in Washinton Township became the latest location in the county to install two, Level 3 DC fast-charging stations. Level 3 stations are the fastest type of charging available and can recharge an electric vehicle at a rate of 3 to 20 miles of range per minute. Unlike Level 1 and Level 2 charging that uses alternating current (AC), Level 3 charging uses direct current (DC). The brings the number of Level 3 charging stations in the county to four — a notable advancement as these stations can provide 150-210 miles of range with one hour of charging, depending on the vehicle model and DCFC (direct current fast charger) power level.

The other Level 3 charging stations are located on Gratiot Avenue, south of Hall Road in Clinton Township, and two locations at a Meijer store on Little Mack Avenue south of 13 Mile Road in Roseville. The county currently has 29 charging stations within its boundaries. The Washington Township charging station opened in February 2021.

The Towns Mart charging station is a significant investment for owner Steve Steve Nalu and his partner, Laith Hanna. At first, the state of Michigan rejected their request to install the charging station in Washington Township. The state, which provides grant money to entrepreneurs who install the charging stations, was more interested in finding locations up and down Interstate 75.

Sean Gouda of DTE, standing next to a Ford Mustang Mach-E, speaks about the new electric vehicle fast-charging stations in Washington Township.

He said they convinced the state by describing M-53 as a main corridor on the east side of the state, heading all the way up to Port Austin. He also said many eastsiders use M-53 to make their way to I-75 on their way to northern Michigan.

After about 1 1/2 years of effort, the site was approved. The men sunk about $150,000 of their own money into the project. They also received a $50,000 grant from the state of Michigan and another $50,000 from DTE, which is providing the electric power for the site. Nalu, himself an EV owner who drives a black Tesla, said the pair are looking to expand at the site once usage builds up. The site is set up for six more charging units. They are tracking usage, and once they see that both are being used often at the same time, they will add more.

Nalu said the Towns Mart made sense from a location standpoint. What convinced him to get the Level 3 chargers was a woman who came into the center in a Tesla just about out of electricity. She plugged her vehicle in at the center but was only acquiring three miles worth of charge per hour. She ended up staying six hours in order to get enough charge to get home.

The fast-charging station screen.

“People come in to get a charge,” Naula said. “If they need a charge to get home, to get to their destination if they’re from out of town, they need a top off or if they need to fill up completely to get further. They can get something to eat, get a haircut. They can shop for convenience store items. So it’s a one-stop-shop. It’s a good setup for the customer who’s waiting. And, if you’re in a hurry, you can get 50 miles (of charge) in about five minutes.”

According to research conducted by BloombergNEF, global sales of zero-emission cars are projected to rise from 4 % of the market in 2020, to 70 percent by 2040. Creating a network of charging stations will be key to support this change. It will be up to government entities and utilities to entice entrepreneurs to bring the charging stations to their communities.

“We know there is work to do when it comes to building out our EV charging infrastructure network,” said Vicky Rowinski, director, Macomb County Planning and Economic Development. “So we’re here to highlight the grant funding and programs available to both private and public entities wishing to install charging stations at their facilities. We envision this equipment at hotels, shopping malls, educational facilities, and other locations where people can park and charge. There is a good amount of capacity in our community for this type of equipment, and today’s example at the Towns Mart Marathon gas station can hopefully be an inspiration for individuals who are thinking about adding EV charging stations to their property.”

“This is a significant investment, but there is also risk,” said Macomb County Board of Commissioners Chairman Don Brown, who also represents Washington Township. “Around the turn of the century, the last century, they were coming off of wagons and going into gas-powered vehicles. They didn’t know what the future held. We’re in the same situation here.  We’re transitioning from gas power to other forms of energy. Maybe it’s going to be electric, maybe it will be hydrogen, but either way, we’re transitioning into a new era. And there are entrepreneurial opportunities to do that.”

Sean Gouda, manager of business development electrification for DTE Energy, said there are 90 Level 3 DCFC charging stations in the state. Part of his job is to make sure the Level 3 stations are distributed in such a way that there will be no “charging deserts” in the state of Michigan. His program, Charging Forward, started in 2019. Its other goals are education and outreach so that everyone can learn about the technology, and making sure residents are aware of rebates available for installing a Level 2 charger in the home.

The electric vehicle fast-charging station.

Gouda said the next step will be to help with transport for OEMs, to fuel fleets of vehicles. In the next few years, he said megawatt charging standards will be coming out. For truck stops, for example, that might mean an 80% charge in 20 minutes or so. But in the early stages, he said the Washington Township station is a great location.

“There are two things I look at for the opportunity. One is depot. What vehicles are going to be stationed within a five-mile radius of this area that could use it as a dependable place to charge, to run an operation,” he said. “So your heating and cooling guys, your electricians, your plumbers. Vans that are within a five-mile radius of this area – they can avert having to make a large capital investment at their place and say ‘I can just use this charger.’ Get a fast charge, and go off and do their runs. Then you have the dynamic opportunity of vehicles just going by in need a charge. So this is a great location because if you look at just the radiuses, there isn’t much around. But as we continue to build, we need to sit with the clients to help them understand how they are going to charge their vehicles. That will be one of the very important things to understand how we can bring infrastructure to these customers so they can use the vehicle reliably. That’s where our fleets program will come into play this coming year.”

As for how the existing electrical grid will be able to handle all of the additional power requirements with the growth of EV, Gouda said that is being looked at through a grid impact study.

“Today, right now, we can take on 20% of charging, as long as it’s not localized. What I mean by that is the heating and cooling guy that’s got 50 vans, and he takes 25 of them and electrifies them at the same time. That’s a scenario that we’ll have to look at and say do we have to make an investment or alter our grid in a way to make sure we get the power that they need,” he said.

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