EVs could present new opportunities for outdoor recreation in Michigan

By: - August 14, 2022 6:30 am

Pictured Rocks National Seashore is one of the sites for EV charging | Susan J. Demas

Creating an infrastructure for electric vehicles in Michigan could also open up new opportunities for the outdoor recreation industry.

As people rediscovered the outdoors through the pandemic, they’re looking for new experiences, said Brad Garmon, director of the Michigan Outdoor Recreation Industry Office.

The goal for many companies is to get people to try their products early on, whether it’s an electric snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle or bicycle, Garmon said. Giving consumers experiences with new products before they’re mass produced provides exposure for businesses and creates a unique opportunity for tourists. 

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“How do we connect those two things? Outdoor recreation as a recreational playground, but also as a testing ground and a proving ground for the next generation of technology,” Garmon said.

This could also lead to rental and sales opportunities for local businesses, with electric bikes as a good entry point, Garmon said.

“We want to be on the front edge of this because it is a fast changing [industry]. Like the technology’s changing, their range on batteries is getting better. So we don’t even know what’s next,” Garmon said.

As the state works with national parks to manage the flow of people and traffic at sites like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, electric mobility provides creative solutions for getting individuals where they want to go, Garmon said.

Additionally, the camping industry may see changes as the industry evolves. In late 2021, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) announced it would add level-two electric vehicle chargers at campground locations across the U.S. and Canada. There are 18 KOA locations in Michigan. 

Scott Whitcomb, director of the Office of Public Lands at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said changes to outdoor recreation in state parks could be dictated by the adoption of electric vehicles.

“Are we just providing something that’s transitory in nature? Or will this be scaled up more to meet a greater demand,” Whitcomb said. “I think it’s too early to tell.”

For now, the level-two chargers installed in state parks will allow visitors to enjoy a walk or spend a couple of hours on the beach while their vehicle charges, Whitcomb said. 

“We really don’t know where this is going to land, but we feel that it’s something that we as an agency, and as a state ought to take a role in,” Whitcomb said.

“If we provide maybe one of the few places in the Midwest where you could test drive an EV snowmobile, on a looped trail system, you know, that would be pretty exciting,” Whitcomb said.

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Kyle Davidson
Kyle Davidson

Kyle Davidson is a reporting intern for the Michigan Advance. A recent MSU graduate, Kyle studied journalism and political science. He has reported on community events, breaking news, state policy, and the environment for outlets including the Lansing State Journal, the Detroit Free Press and Capital News Service.