"Once it was thought to be something of a science project but it's not," said Kristin Zimmerman, manager of advanced vehicle infrastructure for the Chevrolet Volt. "It's very real."
That was the message GM, Ford and power companies across the state had for customers about plug-in hybrids Monday.
"Ford believes its time to revolutionize the industry with electrics today," said Charles Gray, chief engineer of hybrid programs with Ford.
Chevrolet's Volt and Nissan's Leaf are launching before the end of the year in Michigan. Both cars use plug-in hybrid technology. Unlike popular hybrids such as Toyota's Prius, which run on a combination of gasoline and electricity most times, plug-in hybrids can run on only electricity for a set amount before switching to gasoline. The Chevy Volt, for example, can run approximately 40 miles on a full charge before reverting to a typical hybrid system.
"About 80% of Americans drive less than 40 miles every day," said Dave Joos, chairman of CMS Energy. "But if you don't plug them in at all they can run on gasoline like any other vehicle can."
Most single-family Michigan homes should be ready for plug-in hybrids. The Volt only requires the power of a typical wall-outlet to charge the battery, a process that takes about 8 hours for a full charge. With speed chargers or charging stations, that time can be cut down significantly.
Consumers Energy, DTE Energy and the Lansing Board of Water & Light are all offering significant incentives for customers to switch over to plug-in hybrids. The first 25 Lansing Board of Water & Light customers who make the switch will get a check for $7,500 and a quick-charging station installed at their home and at work. Consumers and DTE are both offering significant discounts on electric vehicle charging rates for the first 2,500 customers. DTE says they will only charge 7 cents per killowatt hour versus the typical 11 to 12 cents usual.
"At that rate it's under a dollar per gallon equivalent to charge these electric vehicles," said Anthony Earley, Chairman and CEO of DTE Energy. "We need to make sure that when a customer buys an electric car it's as convenient as pulling up to your local gas station."
DTE and Consumers are also offering a $2,500 tariff towards installing power charging infrastructure in their home to the first 2,500 customers, an amount utilities say is generally more than enough to cover those costs.
Those incentives and collaboration with the state and utilities have GM saying Michigan is best prepared for the new wave of plug-in hybrids.
"I would have to say that Michigan is in a leadership position right now," said Zimmerman.