History in the Making

Charging station on our municipal campus.

Posted by – Steve Cohen, Director of Community Development

Last Friday, I had the opportunity to talk with a group of municipal planners about how Auburn Hills is preparing for plug-in electric vehicles at the 2012 Ohio-Kentucky-Indiana Regional Planning Conference in Columbus, Ohio.

Our partners with the Clean Energy Coalition and OHM explained about how the States of Michigan and Ohio were in the process of completing extensive planning efforts funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to advise and educate communities about the consumer needs of this emerging technology.

My role in the team’s presentation was the fun part.  I was able to give the group real world examples that they could take back home and implement.  Simply, folks are too busy for theory, they just want to know what should be done and how to do it.

On behalf of the City, I essentially offered two lessons learned:

First, uniform standards will be key to public education and acceptance of plug-in electric vehicles.  I gave the example of how people honor the fact that handicapped spaces are reserved for people with disabilities.  This was done using consistent and uniform signs, pavement markings, laws, and enforcement across the country.

Auburn Hills created and implemented similar uniform standards for charging stations.  Experts believe that an important factor in market acceptance of electric vehicles is the creation of a convenient network of charging stations being available for refueling (e.g., not blocked by other vehicles).  Recognizable signage is key to reserving and protecting these spaces for charging only.

Our message:  No need to re-create the wheel!  Auburn Hills has developed uniform standards that you can use today.  We all need to be on the same page.

EV charging stations added at Henniges Automotive’s World Headquarters using the uniform sign and pavement markings created by the City of Auburn Hills. Uniform standards are critical.

Second, plan for the infrastructure needed for electric vehicles today, so you’re ready for the market in the future.   I described how Auburn Hills raises awareness and communicates the message to the developers that it’s cheaper and easier to rough-in charging infrastructure during construction, than rip things up after the fact.  Once the infrastructure is in the ground, charging stations can be easily installed in the future when the market demands.

Drivers of plug-in electric vehicles (whether all battery or hybrid battery and gas) have fueling needs that are different from what we’re used to experiencing.  It’s kind of like how a cell phone is recharged.

Charging stations like this one at Magna E-Car will become common at workplaces.

Owners will want to refuel both at home at night while their sleeping and at work while their car is sitting idle.  It’s a paradigm shift that will never replace our existing gas station fueling system, but will slowly become common place over time.

I explained that creating a network of charging stations in a community is similar to developing a community pathway system.  For example, a generation ago we had few pathways in Auburn Hills.

Over many years, developers built pathways along the roadway in front of their projects at the request of the City.  Now, we have a comprehensive system.

Our message:  It will take time to develop a network of charging stations in your community.  Hey planners, you have a role to play in supporting this industry … so start now!

Sharing our testimony at conferences like this one in Columbus is an opportunity to plant seeds for a future harvest.  Each time our message is heard, there’s a chance a town or region will decide to follow.  Auburn Hills is now a national leader on the topic of preparing for the needs of plug-in electric vehicle consumers.  That was our goal when we started this project 17 months ago.  Not bad for a little big town.

To learn more about the City of Auburn Hills’ plug-in electric vehicle experience, click on these blogs below …

  1. Someone’s Talking About Us
  2. Getting “Plugged-In” as a Team
  3. Who Created that Sign?
  4. No Risk, No Reward
  5. California Dreamin’
  6. Plugging Into Opportunity
  7. Planning Ahead: An ‘Electrifying’ Concept