Earth Day celebrated with boost to EV infrastructure

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WMU solar array

KALAMAZOO--A Friday, April 20, communitywide celebration set to coincide with the observance of Earth Day will mark the Kalamazoo area's emergence as a Michigan powerhouse in charging capacity for electric vehicles.

A total of 25 new charging stations housed at Western Michigan University and Borgess Health facilities will be dedicated, boosting the Kalamazoo area's number of charging stations to 37--more than a third of the total number for all of West Michigan. The stations are all linked to a national network called ChargePoint America, which is helping to build needed infrastructure for EVs by providing networked stations in 10 U.S. regions, including Michigan's Lower Peninsula.

The campus dedication marks WMU's new status as one of the top campuses in the nation for electric vehicle infrastructure, with 20 charging stations and a fleet of green vehicles. The hospital event marks Borgess Health as the first hospital system in Michigan to offer electric vehicle charging stations. All three events showcase Kalamazoo as a city that is in the electric vehicle driver's seat in Michigan, with stations located around the community at a variety of businesses and nonprofit organizations.

The day's round robin events begin with an outdoor display and ribbon cutting adjacent to WMU's Miller Auditorium Parking Ramp. Fifteen new charging stations there and a massive 50wV solar array were installed over the winter with a $700,000 grant from the Clean Energy Coalition--the CEC. The event will be a celebration of the all-Michigan green technology and research that went into installation of the stations and array.

The display area will open at 10 a.m. and a ribbon cutting will take place at 10:30 a.m., following brief remarks by WMU President John M. Dunn; Sean Reed, executive director of the CEC; and campus sustainability leaders.

On display

  • EVs, including a new Nissan Leaf, loaned by area dealers and owners
  • WMU's five new Ford Transit Connects and a hybrid lift truck purchased with the CEC grant
  • Information on solar and hybrid energy savings

WMU's solar race team will bring its racecar, Sunseeker, to the event to highlight research and student involvement. The team, which has a 22-year history at WMU, will participate nationally this summer in the American Solar Challenge, a biennial cross-country collegiate race that uses energy only from the sun.

Also attending the WMU event will be officials from around the state representing energy producers, green technology manufacturers and nonprofits focused on alternative energy.

Borgess events

The April 20 activities will continue at 11:30 a.m. at Borgess Health, which is dedicating three new charging stations at its Kalamazoo hospital, then continue at 12:30 p.m. in Plainwell, Mich., where two additional stations will be dedicated at Pipp-Borgess Hospital.

The Borgess charging stations were purchased with a federal grant and support from the Kalamazoo Community Foundation. Green Earth Michigan, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization worked with ChargePoint America to connect Borgess with funds available through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Taking part in the Borgess ribbon cutting will be Paul Spaude, president and CEO of Borgess Health; Daniel Doehrman, executive director of Green Earth Michigan; and Bobby Hopewell, mayor of Kalamazoo and director of Borgess Hospitality Services.

The Borgess event also will feature a display of electric vehicles from local car dealerships, companies and individuals. Some electric vehicles from the WMU event will travel to the Borgess Medical Center event and continue to the Borgess-Pipp Hospital ceremony.

'Revenge of the Electric Car'

The electric vehicle focus will continue later in the day on the WMU campus with a free showing of "The Revenge of the Electric Car" at 2:30 p.m. in Room 1001 of Wood Hall. The film is coming to campus courtesy of the Sierra Club.

The 2011 film by director Chris Paine and narrated by Tim Robbins chronicles the global resurgence of the electric vehicle just five years after the concluding events in the acclaimed 2006 film, "Who Killed the Electric Car?