By Kayte Marshall
As automakers are beginning to make the switch to electric vehicles, the number of EV charging stations throughout the state is increasing, including at state parks.
At the beginning of the year, five state parks and a fish hatchery had EV charging sites installed.
They are Belle Isle State Park in Detroit, Bay City State Park in Bangor Township, Holland State Park, Leelanau State Park in Northport, Mears State Park in Pentwater and the Oden State Fish Hatchery in Alanson.
This fall, two more charging stations were installed in Interlochen State Park and Orchard Beach State Park in Manistee.
Four charging stations were built as a part of a partnership among the Department of Natural Resources, EV automaker Rivian and a California-based nonprofit organization called Adopt a Charger that aims to accelerate states’ adoption of EVs by installing fee-free charging stations.
DNR analyst Chuck Allen said that the department chose to install charging stations in the parks because of the variety of activities visitors can do while waiting for their vehicles to charge.
“You can go to the beach, hit the trails, you can be camping, playing on the playground with the kids – all different things like that,” Allen said.
Going forward, the three partners plan to install an additional 32 to 34 charging stations in state parks.
The charging stations that Rivian helped to install were fitted with SAE J1772 connectors, which fit all electric vehicles sold in the United States and Canada, except Tesla vehicles.
Holland State Park supervisor Sean Mulligan said Tesla owners are still able to use the new charging stations.
“We’ve had people with Teslas come in and they have adapters to use the Rivian chargers,” Mulligan said.
Holland State Park has had a mix of EV models coming in and, he said, “I’m assuming that they’re finding a way to make them work for their particular car.”
The DNR and Adopt a Charger have received positive feedback about the charging stations.
However, there have been a few bumps in the road with non-EV owners who complain that EV owners don’t have to pay to charge their vehicles, according to Allen and Adopt a Charger founder and executive director Kitty Adams.
That’s because electricity transmission company ITC Holdings Corp. made a donation to cover charging fees in the parks, at least for now.
“Once the donation runs out, we will have to monetize the chargers just like anywhere else you’d go,” Allen said.
Part of ITC Holdings’ reason for the donation was because of connectivity problems in the rural areas where the parks are located.
“If you can’t process a credit card and you’re unable to get a charge, it’s really frustrating,” Adams said.
Another problem is the amount of space that charging stations require, especially in parks like Holland State Park that are often crowded during their regular seasons.
“We’re really thoughtful about the way we’re rolling out the charging stations because we know that a lot of these parks are oversubscribed,” Adams said. “We’re doing it in a way that it’s good to give people the option to charge there, but it’s still not taking away too many parking spaces.”
The partners say they want to accelerate the adoption of EVs in Michigan through their initiative.
“People need to see it to believe it,” Adams said. “People want to know that there’s charging stations available at state parks so that they can get that car, and they can do the things that they love to do.”
Kayte Marshall reports for Capital News Service