With Electric Vehicle Use Rising, Saline Considers Increasing Charging Stations


Back in 2011, when the City of Saline installed a battery charging station in the municipal parking lot behind Mac's, electric vehicles comprised .1 percent of the vehicle sales market.

Today, electric vehicles and plug-in hybrids make up almost 15 percent of the market.

That's just one of the reasons why the Saline Environmental Commission is proposing the city install more charging stations in the community.

At the Feb. 27 meeting, city council heard from Bruce Westlake. Westlake, past chair of the Environmental Commission, is an electric vehicle enthusiast who also leads the East Michigan Electric Auto Association. Westlake said it's time to upgrade on Saline's first public charging station.

"When that charger went in, the only EVs on the market were the Leaf, the Volt and a few Teslas. That model (of charger) isn't built anymore," Westlake said.

He proposed removing the 50-amp charger with two double-headed 32-amp stations that would allow four vehicles to charge at once.

The cost of the project is estimated at $9,365.

Westlake explained the environmental benefit. Based on a similar charging station in Ann Arbor, which claims to track the amount of carbon dioxide that's offset by charging stations, Westlake estimates the Saline charging station offsets about 30 tons of carbon dioxide since it was installed in 2011. Westlake said carbon dioxide is the cause of climate change.

Westlake also the chargers are also important to downtown businesses.

"All of the city restaurants and stores are beholden to the city for parking. They don't have their own parking and aren't able to install chargers themselves. So it's up to the city to update those chargers and give our businesses the leg up on businesses in other communities," Westlake said.

Westlake said EV owners are loyal to local businesses when they have convenient places to charge their vehicles.

Westlake said the chargers also make a statement about the community.

"It demonstrates to the people outside of Saline that we care about the environment," Westlake said.

Mayor Brian Marl said he was in favor of the proposal  - and said he'd like to explore whether the city could install chargers at other places in the city.

"I actually think as a community as a city, we've fallen a little bit behind. And so, not only would I'd like to see this unit upgraded and replaced, I'd also like some insight from the Environmental Commission on the potential for the installation of charging stations elsewhere in the community."

Marl said he thought they might be possible at city hall, at parks and potentially in other city parking lots.

"I think we had fallen a bit behind and I think in the next six to 12 months we should try to play catch-up," Marl said.

Westlake said the Environmental Commission has a plan for Lot 3 (the long-term parking lot off Henry Street) and Lot 5 (the long-term lot off McKay Street).

Westlake estimated the cost of offering the service would be about $40 a month at 80 percent capacity. Councillor Dean Girbach asked about asking users to pay for their charge.

Westlake recommended against it, saying experience has shown that charging fees reduces occupancy rate. He said Pittsfield Township installed a fairly expensive system of chargers and suffered poor usage because it attempted to charge for the electricity.

"People will go other places. Ann Arbor doesn't charge for charging. The downtown business association pays for that to support the downtown businesses," Westlake said. "Even if you just charge a nominal fee, in this area you'll probably not get any customers."

Girbach said the city could access TIFA funds to help finance the project.

Councillor Janet Dillon asked if it was possible to move the charging station, noting that it's in a prime spot. Westlake had previously said that he's always recommended moving charging stations away from the prime parking areas because EV drivers don't mind walking. 

Marl had indicated council would take up the matter on March 6 but the issue did not appear on the agenda.

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This raises some questions. First, with Saline having a budget issue, why should taxes be used to pay the power for a few? Are those who cannot afford EVs paying for those who can buy expensive vehicles? Secondly, with the DTE fuel mix being about 58% coal, 9% natural gas, and 23% nuclear, how are EVs considered green vehicles? I have been told by advocates that EVs use wind and solar power. I don't think that the electrons in the wires have GPS directing them to EV charging stations. They do move air pollution away from the driver's immediate area to the area around power plants, which could be an environmental justice issue.  If I had an EV, I would recharge it on the City's budget instead of at home. If the City installs them, the users should pay the full price of power and a capital recovery fee. 

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The article highlights the growing popularity of electric vehicles in Saline, Michigan, and the city's consideration of increasing charging stations. Luxespeed, a car rental company, is mentioned as one of the businesses benefiting from this trend. As more people switch to electric cars, the demand for charging infrastructure will continue to rise, making it important for cities to plan ahead to accommodate this shift. https://luxespeed.com/

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