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Michigan Utility Works to Set Up Homes for Electric Vehicles

Consumers Energy is working on plans to become a "one-stop shop" to help Michigan residents set up their homes for electric vehicle ownership, the utility's vice president for customer experience said Friday.

electric vehicles
(TNS) — Consumers Energy is working on plans to become a "one-stop shop" to help Michigan residents set up their homes for electric-vehicle ownership, the Jackson-based utility's vice president for customer experience said Friday.

That would entail helping customers find the right charging station, scheduling its installation with an electrician, providing a $500 residential rebate to help cover those costs and putting that customer on a rate plan that incentivizes nighttime charging. Consumers Energy hopes to launch a program to do all of that in the third quarter of 2022 as a part of the goal it shared this week to power 1 million EVs by 2030 in its service area covering most of the Lower Peninsula outside Metro Detroit and the Thumb region.

"Imagine if you are thinking about buying an electric vehicle and you make that purchase and you think, 'OK, now what do I do?'" Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, vice president for customer experience, said during a webinar with the Automotive Press Association. "We can be a resource for you. That is in our plans. That is something that we are committed to figuring out, because I also think that that's another reason why customers might be resistant and ... might shy away from purchasing an EV. It's kind of complicated."

With the latest EVs offering a couple hundred miles to a charge or more, Youngdahl Snyder said range or even charging infrastructure isn't the biggest barrier to adoption. Instead, she said, it's educating drivers on the performance and maintenance benefits on EVs and assisting them in the adoption of that new technology since it's a change in behavior from stopping at a gas pump to fuel up the tank.

To make that 1 million vehicle goal, Youngdahl Snyder said the company looked over industry reports and projections. The best-case scenario her team told her was that Michigan would have 300,000 EVs by 2030, up from 30,000 registered EVs today.

"When we said a million, it was a great debate amongst our senior team, but I want to be on the right side of history for this," Youngdahl Snyder said, pointing to support from the federal and state government and automakers' plans to introduce hundreds of electric nameplates over the next decade. "I want Consumers Energy not to be the bottleneck.

"Even if we land below a million by 2030 and if we're talking again in 2030, and you said, 'Oh, there's only 750 on the road,' it doesn't matter. What's the line like? Shoot for the moon, and you'll land among the stars? That's where my team and I want to be. We want to be progressive in the way that Consumers Energy shows up for the auto sector and for our customers and for the state of Michigan."

Even with Consumers Energy's plans to replace coal power mostly with natural gas by 2025, the utility will have the capacity to power those EVs so long as owners charge their vehicles mostly at night when electricity demand is at its lowest, Youngdahl Snyder said. So far, customers do so 90% of the time.

To incentivize that behavior, Consumers Energy offers a discounted off-peak rate of about 7 cents per kilowatt-hour compared with the standard 15 cents per kilowatt-hour, Youngdahl Snyder said. Residents who receive the $500 rebate for a Level 2, 240-volt charger that can charge 30 miles in about an hour must enroll in the time-of-use rate plan. That is expected to spread electricity demand more evenly throughout the day, which the company says could reduce rates.

In addition to residents, Consumers Energy is offering rebates to businesses installing chargers on their property and providing guidance to businesses looking to electrify their vehicles through its PowerMIFleet program.

"We think that's the biggest thing is customers: just not knowing enough and not knowing how to charge and not knowing what's required to charge," Youngdahl Snyder said. "We think we can play a role in that."

© 2021 The Detroit News. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.