Detroit to add 200 EV charging stations beyond downtown
Detroit could add up to 200 electric vehicle charging stations through a two-year contract struck between the City Council and a local supplier that will work with the Office of Mobility Innovation to select sites throughout the city.
Council approved a contract with Red E Charging, LLC to install and manage charging stations on city property. Tim Slusser, chief of mobility innovation, said the city plans to target 10 to 20 sites within the first year before significantly ramping up installation.
Christian Liner is a westside Detroiter who has driven a Tesla for the last two years. Liner said he loves the car, but it’s presented challenges. He installed a home charger, which was expensive, and doesn’t live near any convenient charging stations; Liner said the closest Tesla supercharger is 25 minutes away.
“It played a part in me switching jobs,” Liner said. “I was working in West Bloomfield and now I’m working in the city because driving out there and coming home without having anywhere to charge was not good. If we had more charging stations people would want to purchase (EVs).”
Red E Charging will cover the cost of installation, so Slusser said the city isn’t investing any money into developing charging infrastructure. Detroit will collect a portion of revenue from charging fees that can be used to support the General Fund and possibly pay for other transportation initiatives.
“Initially there was an expectation that industry would step up … and I expected them to move faster,” Slusser said. “We’re at a point now where we’ve got plug-in hybrid Jeep Grand Cherokees rolling off the line in Detroit, we’ve got Factory Zero pumping out all electric vehicles for General Motors.
“We’re designing the vehicles of the future, which are all electric, right in our backyard. Detroiters that are manufacturing them with their own hands don’t have access to infrastructure so they can buy one themselves.”
The city has a list of potential sites, but declined to share details. Slusser said potential sites include outside recreation centers, surface parking lots and garages, and curbside parking spots in all seven City Council districts.
“The city is not going to put a dollar on the table to get this infrastructure built,” Slusser said. “We are landlords, and we wanted to make our sites accessible to a company to come and provide these types of services and do the installation. Since it’s on city property, we thought it would be fair to have a revenue agreement to provide some funding back to the city as these assets are being used.”
Slusser said the city estimates there are between 120 to 150 charging stations in Detroit, most of which are concentrated between downtown and New Center. Detroit-owned companies are working to build more stations in neighborhoods to improve access for Black residents who don’t live near the city’s center. Slusser said the city wants stations to be distributed equitably, but also acknowledged many residents can’t afford electric cars.
“If I go into a low-income neighborhood and put in five charging stations, who have I helped? I haven’t helped anybody because most of these people can’t afford an EV,” Slusser said. “We want to provide access to as many popular points of interest within the city as possible.”
Data from Cox Automotive found the average price for an electric vehicle was $53,438 in June 2023, roughly $4,630 more for the average cost of a gas-powered vehicle. Federal and state tax incentives bring down the cost, and electric vehicles are expected to cost less in the long-term because filling up with fuel is more expensive than electricity.
Paul Wezner and his family spend summers living on their boat at the Detroit Yacht Club on Belle Isle. Wezner and his wife both drive electric vehicles and sometimes struggle to find places to keep their cars charged.
“In the city, charging is quite frankly pretty difficult,” Wezner said. “There are not a lot of publicly available options. I have to bring a portable charger with me because there’s not enough reliable (stations).”
A lack of access to charging stations is a major reason people are hesitant to make the switch to EVs, Wezner said.
“If we, collectively as a society, are trying to facilitate that transition, someone has to step up and make that investment,” he said.
Red E. Charging representatives were not available for comment for this story. The company is responsible for making electrical upgrades to meet power requirements for charging stations. The contract requires up to 30 DC Fast EV charging stations that provide enough power for long-distance travel and 70 Level 2 charging stations for shorter trips, with room for 20 additional DC Fast charging stations and 100 to 200 Level 2 stations.
“We know that if you want to have a robust charging infrastructure network across the city, you really need to have a good amount of fast-charging stations to enable some of that longer distance travel or faster refueling of these vehicles,” Slusser said. “We’ve got to make sure we have some balance with the number of Level 2 charging stations … you’re going to park your vehicle somewhere between 30 minutes and a couple of hours and get 20 or so miles of range per hour.”
Slusser said rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are planning to convert their fleet to electric vehicles, and the city is also electrifying its fleet of cars. Detroit rolled out four electric buses last year to see how well they perform compared to diesel buses.
“We have some of the worst air quality in the country,” Slusser said. “Moving to an electrified transportation system, whether it’s personal vehicles or public, creates benefits for the entire community.”
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