Could Michigan's proposed gas tax fuel electric vehicle sales?

Posted at 6:41 AM, Mar 13, 2019
and last updated 2019-04-16 08:26:04-04

(WXYZ) — While electric cars haven’t flooded the market, there are growing signs that they’re gaining a foothold in metro Detroit.

Charging stations have begun to pop up at workplaces and along streets in places like Ferndale, but the biggest growth — according to local electricians — may be home installations.

“The industry has been picking up ever since last summer,” said J.W. Shaw, the owner of J.W. Shaw Electric.

He, along with several other local electric companies, noted that they’ve seen an increase. Part of that has to do with a rebate system that allowed EV owners to save money when they leased/bought all-electric cars, but Shaw said that business has continued even after many of those rebates were dropped. In fact, he added a unit to his company that’s dedicated to installing home charging stations.

“We’ve seen an increase, like I said, in both estimates and installations,” he said.

Referencing the 45-cent gas tax proposal, he said there’s a good chance it drives more people to electric cars: “45 cents is a lot, it makes you consider what you want to do, people are concerned about fuel costs.”

Over at Feldman Chevrolet in New Hudson, Greg Green told us that customers are likely all-in, or uninterested. He attributed that partly to range anxiety — a term EV insiders use for people who worry a charge won’t get them to their needed destination — and because of a general hesitancy to something that’s radically new.

“I remember when we went to Indianapolis to see these things for the first time and we got in and said, ‘Is this running?’” said Green. “These are just so quiet.”

Talking to Green in a Chevy Bolt during a test-drive we got to try the vehicle out for ourselves — it’s notably quiet, as he said. It’s very responsive as well. If you expect a lag because it’s missing a gas-powered engine, you’ll actually get the reverse: it starts and stops quicker than you’d expect.

“I don’t think a true electric has caught on yet, I don’t think it’s caught on because people are weary — but times are changing.”

Back in Walled Lake, Shaw is at the latest install. He thinks times are changing faster for him because he’s installing for multiple types of chargers, he’s not tied to a specific brand. On the day we catch up with him he’s installing a charging unit for Cody Horn. Horn progressed from a hybrid to an all-electric car to take advantage of rebates, he crunched the numbers and figured he could invest in a charging system and save money over the long-haul.

“I found out it was way cheaper,” explained Horn. “I’m thinking maybe 80 dollars a month once you take the tax credit into consideration — and that’s just if I’m going to/from work.”

Horn said it’s getting harder and harder to pump gas into his family’s second car — a large SUV. That said, finding the savings takes a lot of legwork. He compared cars, researched how to maximize tax credits and signed up for a DTE program that puts a second meter on your home. He also charges his car overnight because DTE’s charging program gives a discounted cost for electricity at that hour.

The biggest cost, according to Horn, was the installation of a charger which typically runs between $1,100 and $1,600. Shaw notes that some customers have already called him inquiring about services for a second charger as families get used to electric and opt to have both family vehicles go electric.

If you’d like to learn more about installations you can find JW Shaw’s website here.