Locals discuss driving, electricity barriers along lake shores


HOLLAND – As local communities like the Netherlands grapple with advancements in technology and accommodate residents’ growing demand for sustainability, electric vehicles (EVs) are at the forefront of discussions.

For the past two decades, electric vehicles have been a consideration, not a priority, for the average car owner. But over the past year, amid an ongoing pandemic and widespread acceptance of climate change after dozens of natural disasters, priorities have changed dramatically.

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Today more than ever, electric vehicles are being touted as one of the most effective ways to reduce the country’s carbon footprint.

This is evident in reviews of Holland’s Community Energy Plan, prepared by a specially appointed strategic development team.

Jeff and Jill Raywood's Tesla Model 3 loads up their driveway on Thursday, September 30 in the Netherlands.

Proposal would go up the timeline for meeting the Netherlands’ long-term carbon emissions targets, with recommendations that include shifting new purchases from municipal vehicles to electric vehicles and encouraging residents to go electric through through promotion and education.

But for retired teacher and resident of the Netherlands, Jeff Raywood, no additional incentive is needed.

“It destroys the environment,” he said. “We cannot continue to burn fossil fuels. “

Raywood bought its first all-electric vehicle in November 2019, after owning two hybrid models. Her son also has an EV.

“The mileage I get from the EV is surprisingly replacing a regular internal combustion engine,” Raywood said. “They are so much more efficient and electricity in Holland is already so cheap.”

When not using electricity from the Holland Board of Public Works, Raywood uses solar panels to recharge.

“We are reducing our dependence on fossil fuels,” he said. “It’s easy, especially if you are an HBPW customer. They paid 50% of my charger. It was $ 600. We called an electrician, he installed it and HBPW paid half of it.

When he’s on the road, Raywood uses his iPhone to locate the nearest charging station. Tesla has compressors all over the country, including one in Grand Rapids. An adapter allows Raywood to access non-Tesla charging stations.

“Meijer on 16th Street has a charger, and the first hour is free,” he said. “I am 65 years old. I am not a young man. I got my first iPhone maybe 14 months ago. If I can do it, anyone can do it.

But it’s these billing complications, consumers say, that are discouraging them from making the switch.

The interior of a Tesla Model 3, owned by Jeff and Jill Raywood of Holland.

That’s according to Joshua Bylsma of Tradion, a Grand Haven-based startup developing a “virtual power plant” that will take care of electric vehicle charging and energy storage – all through a monthly subscription that costs cheaper than filling a traditional car with gasoline.

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“Accessibility is really the main motivation for us,” said Bylsma. “We realize that the current model doesn’t make a lot of practicality. You buy an electric vehicle, you take it home, you get a charger with it, you plug that charger into the wall – and you realize that on average, you get four miles of driving time for every hour you’re plugged in. “

Bylsma found that 20% of first-time electric vehicle buyers switch to traditional cars because of these issues.

“Systems that would charge an EV faster often cost more than what the average EV owner is looking to spend,” he said. “The reality is we love the idea of ​​electric vehicles. We are all for it. But to top it up quickly, you have to go to a merchant site, and that takes time.

Tradion was officially launched about six months ago, but technological research and development has been going on in Bylsma’s garage for two years.

“We have about 12 to 18 months left to go into manufacturing and enter the market,” Bylsma said. “But we had a conversation with one of the Big Three and they said they would be in this round of fundraising. Our plan is to start in Michigan and from there grow across the country. “

Tradion’s technology will be universal, Bylsma said.

“We want to make it open, nothing proprietary, so anyone with an EV can shut down, plug in and recharge,” he said. “From everyone we spoke to, charging is the Achilles heel of the electric vehicle market. We want to remove this barrier.

The company will also aim to reuse batteries from electric vehicles.

“We’re seeing that the market is starting to generate these used batteries, and people don’t know what to do with them,” Bylsma said. “But in reality, even though they can no longer be used in your car, they have a lifespan of five to seven years. Instead of throwing them into a landfill, we want to use our system to reuse these batteries in home storage.

The interior of a Tesla Model 3, owned by Jeff and Jill Raywood of Holland.

“That way our customer ends up having a head start and we’re really sustainable in our use of these materials. “

Bylsma recognizes that Tradion isn’t the only lakeside company looking to make EVs more accessible to the average shopper.

“If we all work together as an industry,” he said, “we can do it. “

It’s all part of a larger state-wide and federal push for electric vehicle adoption. Some of America’s biggest automakers, including Ford and General Motors, have announced ambitious plans to expand their range of electric vehicles. Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has called for half of all new vehicles to be electric or hybrid by 2030.

During the Mackinac Policy Conference in late September, Governor Gretchen Whitmer and other state officials announced the Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit – a plan to add charging stations in communities, lighthouses and other places along the shore.

The news follows Whitmer’s announcement earlier this week at Motor Bella in Pontiac about plans to create the first section of public road in the country to wirelessly charge an EV. Confirmation of the draft would put Michigan in a race to beat Indiana to the finish line.

These are big changes for a state that currently ranks 41st in the country for overall electric vehicle usability, according to an analysis from Bumper, a leading provider of vehicle history reports. The ranking is based on the existing infrastructure, the availability and growth of charging stations, as well as the cost of purchasing and powering electric vehicles and the average commute time to work.

The wide-scale adoption of electric vehicles will depend on startups like Tradion and power supplier programs like HBPW in addition to state and federal policies.

Again this week, Consumers Energy announced that it will expand home charging options for electric vehicle drivers with its “Bring Your Own Charger” program. The program will financially reward EV owners for charging their vehicles overnight at home, regardless of whether they purchased their charger separately or received it with their EV.

A home charging port can be found in Jeff and Jill Raywood's garage for their Tesla Model 3.

“(Electric vehicles) are coming quickly to Michigan, and Consumers Energy is committed to fueling that growth by any means possible,” said Lauren Youngdahl Snyder, vice president of customer experience at Consumers Energy.

“We’re removing barriers to electric vehicle ownership with ‘Bring Your Own Charger’ and we’re powering the grid to charge EVs, whether at home or in public places along Michigan’s roads.”

The company plans 200 additional fast-charging locations and more than 2,000 chargers in homes and businesses over the next three years.

“Talk to the owners,” Raywood advises those considering the change. “There are quite a few of us in town. Early adopters are more than willing to share our stories. Just ask us. Because it’s not about me, it’s about those who follow. Why not do it now? “

– Contact journalist Cassandra Lybrink at [email protected]. Follow her on Instagram @BizHolland.

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