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A Charging Facility in Michigan Aims to Reinvent the American Truck Stop

A mobility charging hub is under development in Michigan to generate rapid, high-power charging for heavy-duty trucks, while also experimenting with the integration of new technologies like renewable energy production and storage.

Michigan is joining California and other states in reimagining tomorrow’s truck stops, moving forward with the development of a high-speed charging hub for freight vehicles.

The state is developing a mobility charging hub along Interstate 96 in the Detroit metro region with nine pull-through fast chargers designed to serve heavy-duty battery-electric freight trucks, along with charging for passenger vehicles, said Charlie Tyson, technology activation director at the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC).

The mobility hub will offer the kind of rapid charging to give trucks a boost during the day, as well as slower charging designed more as overnight dwell charging. The hub will be located at the multi-acre Daimler Truck North America facility, and will also partner with DTE Energy as the electric provider.

“DTE will lead the engineering, procurement and construction of the site and will own and operate the equipment once installed,” said Brett Steudle, electric vehicle manager at DTE Energy.

Michigan has plans to transition heavy-duty and light-duty vehicles toward zero emissions, even if those goals remain more aspirational than mandated, as they are in California. However, Michigan has been actively focused on developing charging infrastructure with initiatives like the U.S.-Canada EV Corridor, which will place fast DC chargers at 50-mile intervals along routes from Michigan into Quebec, Canada. The Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) is also leading a project to develop and test a one-mile stretch of in-road, wireless EV charging in Detroit.

The move to develop a charging hub for heavy-duty trucks marks a new move in the decades-old model of the highway truck stop, evolving from a facility selling diesel and snacks or fast food, to quiet, clean and technologically advanced way stations.

“Through Michigan’s Mobility Charging Hub initiative, the state is providing the opportunity to create a more technologically advanced and sustainable approach to serving the needs of truck drivers,” said Tyson. “Through testing and R&D, the future of truck stops has the potential to include technologies including extensive electric charging infrastructure, renewable energy integration such as solar panels and autonomous vehicle support.”

“Freight trucks play a pivotal role in driving commerce, delivering goods and connecting businesses throughout the nation,” said Michigan Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist, in a statement. “Which is why we’re taking a future-forward approach to prepare this industry for the future and encourage other innovators and companies to consider how they, too, can make it in Michigan.”

The charging hub also represents a new business direction for utilities like DTE, which is also involved in expanding charging opportunities for light-duty vehicles in areas like multifamily housing and workplaces as corridors.

“We are assisting customers with their journey to driving electric vehicles through our EV programming, including thousands in residential and business rebates, EV charger installation, electric pricing options, e-Fleet advisory services and enhancing our state’s charging network,” said Steudle, in an email. “In tandem with the continued planned electrical infrastructure upgrades, we are ensuring the benefits of EVs positively impact our customers, the grid and Michigan."

Trucking charging hubs are also taking off in California. The Greenville Community Charging Depot, a charging facility in the East Bay city of Livermore capable of charging 96 trucks with 100 percent renewable energy is moving forward and being led by Forum Mobility.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.