The creation of an electric vehicle infrastructure in Michigan could also open up new opportunities for the outdoor recreation industry.
As people rediscovered the great outdoors through the pandemic, they were 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, SUV, motorcycle or bicycle, Garmon said. Providing consumers with experiences of new products before they are mass-produced attracts attention to businesses and creates a unique opportunity for tourists.
“How do we connect these two things? Outdoor recreation as a recreational playground, but also as a proving ground and proving ground for the next generation of technology,” Garmon said.
This could also lead to rental and sale opportunities for local businesses, with electric bikes being a good entry point, Garmon said.
“We want to be at the top because things change quickly [industry]. As technology changes, its battery range is getting better and 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 in places like Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, electric mobility offers creative solutions to get individuals where they want to go, Garmon said.
In addition, there can be changes in the camping industry as the industry evolves. In late 2021, Kampgrounds of America (KOA) announced it would add Level 2 EV chargers to campgrounds in the US 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 at state parks could be dictated by the introduction of electric vehicles.
“Are we just providing something ephemeral? Or will this be further expanded to meet greater demand,” said Whitcomb. “I think it’s too early to tell.”
For now, Level 2 chargers installed in state parks will allow visitors to take a stroll or spend a few hours on the beach while their vehicle charges, Whitcomb said.
“We really don’t know where that’s going to end up, but we think we have a role to play as an agency and as a state,” Whitcomb said.
“If we might provide one of the few places in the Midwest where you could test drive an EV snowmobile on a loop system, that would be pretty exciting,” Whitcomb said.