As the first mainstream plug-in electric cars roll into Michigan showrooms early next year, efforts are underway by utilities to establish a network of charging station across the country. Meijer appears to be the first retailer in the state to install the technology. The Walker-based company is spending $100,000 to put stations at three of its stores. Another 10 to 20 will be installed at other Meijer stores through five Midwest states in 2011 -- including one in the Grand Rapids market.
The first charging station was to be unveiled this morning at the Warren Meijer store, across the street from GM's technical center. The second also will go up on the state's east side -- where the auto industry has installed other charging stations -- at the retailer's Allen Park store, located a few miles from Ford's headquarters.
And the third will be here in West Michigan in Holland, a few blocks from the JCI-Saft and LG Chem plants that will produce lithium batteries for the Chevy Volt and other GM and Ford products. Here is the surprising part:
The electric charging stations will be free for customers to use.
This from the guy who still charges you a penny to ride the mechanical pony. You just know there have to be some tax credits involved in there somewhere. Nevertheless, Meijer has been making some good steps towards becoming eco-friendly: They've installed Michigan-made wind turbines at various stores and office sites, they brought in the reusable bags (sure would like to get rid of those plastic things though), their renovations and new stores are meeting LEED certification, and now this.
It's a good start to building an infrastructure to support this industry. President Obama believes that Republicans are on board will the concept of promoting electric vehicles, but bills in Congress last year died - so we will see what the future holds there. With the major manufacturers all planning for electric car and truck production, and people like GE putting major $$ support towards their growth, it might just pressure the Republicans to drop any obstruction plans and play ball.
Time will tell - but thanks goes to Meijer for helping to get things rolling.