Does Michigan hate electric cars? Buyers, drivers challenged by myriad factors

As Kermit the Frog sang, sometimes it’s not easy being green.

That appears to be particularly the case in Michigan, home to the three largest U.S. automakers.

The Great Lakes State is a global hub of automotive technology, the bulk of it centered around internal-combustion engines.

CHECK OUT: Michigan Gov Snyder Signs ‘Corrupt Politics At Its Worst’ Anti-Tesla Bill (Oct 2014)

If you want to buy or drive an electric car in Michigan, however, the odds appear to be stacked against you at the moment. Consider the following hurdles:


It’s still not possible for Tesla to sell cars at the single location it operates, a Tesla Gallery inside a Nordstrom department store in Troy, opened only in December 2016.

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder with Ford's steering wheel technology at ITS World Congress, Detroit

Michigan Governor Rick Snyder with Ford’s steering wheel technology at ITS World Congress, Detroit

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The state has no Tesla service location either, though the company’s map says one is “coming soon” to Detroit (and offers a Roadside Assistance number for drivers).

The tale of how the state’s powerful auto-dealer lobbyists inserted a single word into state franchise-law language in October 2014 that was immediately passed and signed into law by governor Rick Snyder within days.

That bill was called “corrupt politics at its worst” by Daniel Crane, a law professor at the University of Michigan, in an article in The Detroit News.

The last-minute amendment, he said, represented “a real travesty.”

It may not be surprising that the state that houses the Detroit Three makers has no particular love for an upstart California carmaker they have come to perceive as a threat.

We just wonder where the many Tesla Model S and Model X electric cars we’ve seen in and around Detroit, including more than one being tested by those makers, were purchased.

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV pre-production vehicles at Orion Township Assembly Plant, March 2016

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Adding insult to injury, the award-winning 2017 Chevrolet Bolt EV electric car, rated at 238 miles of range at a price of $37,500, is built at an assembly plant in Orion Township, Michigan.

You’d think that might be a source of pride, but once those Bolts leave the line, every single one of the pioneering electric cars is immediately shipped out of the state.

The home state of General Motors has always been in the last and final group of states (including places like North Dakota) that would open up for Bolt EV sales.

While the first Bolts were sold in California last December, Michiganders can’t take delivery until sometime in August at the earliest—and that comes from a recent acceleration of the schedule (it was originally September).

(Unless those buyers travel to another state to buy their cars and bring them home, of course—rather like Tesla buyers have to do.)

The challenges extend beyond simply buying electric cars, however. Charging them may be tough too.

Electric-car charging stations in Michigan, June 2017 [U.S. Energy Information Authority AFDC]

Electric-car charging stations in Michigan, June 2017 [U.S. Energy Information Authority AFDC]

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According to the Alternative Fuels Data Center maintained by the U.S. Energy Information Authority, Michigan has 328 electric-car charging locations with a total of 870 outlets.

That’s 2.0 percent of the 16,036 sites totaling 43,129 outlets in the U.S. as a whole—but Michigan has 3.1 percent of U.S. population, so it’s shy on charging locations.

Proud Michigander Brandon Turkus, who lives and works in the suburbs of Detroit, discovered this first-hand while testing a 2017 Ford Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid for his 19-mile commute.

DON’T MISS: 2017 Ford Fusion Energi: low electric range, no public charging frustrating

The car’s EPA-rated 22 miles of battery range should have let him travel electrically to and from work, presuming there was a way to charge during his workday. There wasn’t.

He asked pointedly, “Why am I at an office mere minutes from the site of Chevrolet Bolt EV production and I can’t recharge a piddly 7.6-kilowatt-hour lithium-ion battery for a couple of hours?”

Michigan’s overall numbers improve somewhat when you net out California, the acknowledged leader by far in electric-car sales and charging infrastructure.

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