HOUGHTON -- Electric Vehicle (EV) owners can now charge their cars at a public charging station in downtown Houghton on the parking deck behind the 5th and Elm Coffee House. Students from Michigan Tech, with support from General Motors, Upper Peninsula Power Company, and the City of Houghton have partnered together to install the first public EV charging station in the Upper Peninsula. The new charging station will be unveiled for public use at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, Apr. 25, at the 5th and Elm Coffee House, 326 Shelden Ave in Houghton.
General Motors has a long history of working with Michigan Tech on student projects related to emerging industry and society issues. This year, GM sponsored several groups of Michigan Tech students to look at some of the charging infrastructure challenges associated with the ongoing emergence of electrified transportation. One of those current challenges is the availability of public EV charging. While most EV owners are likely to charge their vehicles at home, the limited battery capacity, and therefore range, of most current EVs makes public charging an essential element needed for widespread EV adoption. It is a classic chicken or egg dilemma. Without large numbers of EVs in service, public charging will not be extensively used. But the lack of a visible network of public charging is perceived as a possible limiting factor in consumers considering an EV purchase.
Student teams in the Automotive Computing Enterprise, Transportation Enterprise, Civil Engineering Senior Design, and the School of Business looked at the many issues associated with public EV charging. One outcome of their efforts is the new charging station in downtown Houghton. Students grappled with many of the technical and business issues of public charging including predicting how many charging stations will be needed, the best locations for charging stations, and a viable business model to pay for the charging infrastructure as well as the electricity used.
Initially, the new charging station in Houghton will offer free charging courtesy of 5th and Elm Coffee House. Frank Fiala, the owner of 5th and Elm, is excited to part of the first Houghton charging station because he believes it will help attract people to downtown Houghton. The City of Houghton sees the new EV charger as part of their continuing efforts to encourage the growth and development of downtown.
Electric utilities will be central players in the shift to electric transportation and the Upper Peninsula Power Company strives to be in a leadership role by supporting, encouraging, and enabling this new technology. By partnering with Michigan Tech and the City of Houghton on the first publicly available EV charger in the UP, UPPCO demonstrates their dedication to having an active role in shaping the future of this market. UPPCO envisions the future network of home, workplace, and public charging infrastructure as key opportunities to serve their customer base and provide the transportation fuel of the future.