Michigan Rep. Lawrence introducing bill to fund wireless EV charging

Riley Beggin
The Detroit News

Washington — Rep. Brenda Lawrence, D-Southfield, plans to introduce a bill Wednesday that would create a $50 million grant program in the Department of Transportation to fund wireless electric vehicle charging projects. 

State, local or tribal governments could receive grants of up to $5 million to fund static or dynamic chargers. They would be required to pay for at least 20% of the total cost of the project. 

Static chargers would charge the vehicle while it's standing still, such as at a bus stop, while dynamic charging would charge the vehicle in motion. The state of Michigan's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification has plans to build a one-mile wireless charging road, which Lawrence said would be eligible for a grant under her proposed program. 

The global auto industry is pivoting to electric vehicles, and the Detroit Three have all made major announcements over the last year indicating their commitment to electrifying their fleets.

But even as EVs are expected to take off, industry analysts say the limited availability of chargers remains a major barrier to consumer adoption. Policymakers in Washington have aimed to ease the transition by approving $7.5 billion for EV charging through the bipartisan infrastructure law, but to date there has been little talk in Congress of wireless charging.

"We have to move up and recognize the challenge of charging these electric vehicles, and all of the focus has been on charging stations" Lawrence said.

Most EV chargers are intended to charge a vehicle over the course of hours, usually overnight. Even the fastest chargers take more than a half an hour, well over the time it takes to fill a traditional vehicle with gasoline. Wireless charging can help keep cars running on the go, Lawrence said. 

As EVs become a larger part of public transportation and ridesharing services, "it makes sense that we create charging pads... what this bill will do is create the funding for us to advance this technology."

She acknowledged that $50 million is "not a lot," but said the goal is demonstrate what's possible: Michigan is "going to make electric vehicles, why not pilot and be a leader in the technology to charge the vehicles?"

Projects would be prioritized that are compatible with existing infrastructure, benefit the public including low-income and underserved communities, leverage private funding, and are compatible with all EVs. 

The bill will be referred to the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. It is co-sponsored by seven Democrats, including Rep. Haley Stevens, D-Waterford Township.

rbeggin@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @rbeggin