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Mich. charges up for electric cars

Published 11:08pm Monday, January 30, 2012

DETROIT — The first hybrid vehicle rolled into Michigan about 15 years ago, and now, just about everyone knows someone who drives one. Automakers are selling several new electric models this year, many of which are being built in Detroit.
The question is: Will electric cars catch on?
Drivers may wonder if they can afford to make the switch, but Howard Learner, director of the Environmental Law and Policy Center, says the federal government and states can provide rebates and tax incentives to help with the cost.
However, he predicts it will take awhile for the auto industry to “go green.”
“We need to get the policies right, but this is going to live and die based on consumer demand. If consumers see cars they like, drive well, that look good and that help them save money — and also help reduce pollution — that market will grow.”
Michigan’s Public Service Commission has approved lower electric rates for drivers who charge their cars at night during off-peak hours, Learner says.
Charging stations are cropping up in Detroit, Lansing, Kalamazoo, Grand Rapids and other Michigan cities. Some charging stations allow drivers to plug-in for free to encourage clean driving, and some use solar canopies to charge cars during the day. Learner sees that as a positive development.
“We’re pushing very hard for there to be more solar- and wind-power charging stations. So, we’re getting clean power and clean energy to charge up the clean cars. That’s the pathway for the future.”
General Motors had hoped to sell 10,000 Chevy Volts last year, but fell short of that goal by about 2,000 cars.
Some consumers complained the $40,000 price tag was too high, but Ryan Werder, political director of the Michigan League of Conservation Voters, says they may be forgetting one thing:
“You can fuel up a Chevy Volt for a buck-fifty.”
The Volt also had sparked safety concerns, but a National Transportation Safety Board investigation cleared GM. Still, surveys from Pike Research have found interest in electric cars dropping a bit in the last couple of years.
Werder says electric cars are creating green jobs in Michigan and, once drivers become more familiar with them, he’s confident that more will start plugging in rather than filling up.
More information on electric cars is online at
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