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Electric vehicle charging circuit coming to Lake Michigan shoreline route


Chicago — Illinois has joined with Michigan and two other states to build a 1,100-mile EV charging circuit along Lake Michigan, creating a scenic tourism route with enough juice to get electric vehicles from fish boils in Green Bay to cherry picking in Traverse City.

The Lake Michigan EV Circuit Tour will incorporate existing charging infrastructure with strategically located new chargers at key coastal communities, lighthouses, state parks, breweries and other popular tourist attractions along the shoreline route. The build-out is expected to be completed over the next few years.

The agreement among Illinois, Wisconsin, Indiana and Michigan follows the tourism initiative announced last year by Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer to create the EV circuit around Lake Michigan. Dubbed an “electric Route 66″ by the participating states, the circuit takes in everything from the urban bustle of Chicago to the pastoral splendor of Mackinac Island, where motorized vehicles are not allowed, and horsepower is still measured in actual horses.

“The Great Lakes are the crown jewel of the upper Midwest, and this initiative proudly blends our clean energy goals with the natural beauty that attracts countless visitors each year,” Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker said this week in a news release.

EV sales, which made up 2.6% of the U.S. auto market in 2021, are projected to nearly double this year to a 5% market share, according to car shopping website Edmunds. Demand has been boosted by spiking gas prices, but EV manufacturers such as Rivian, which builds electric trucks at its downstate Normal, Illinois, plant, are struggling with supply chain issues that have roiled global auto production.

The revived climate bill proposed by Democrats in the Senate last week would extend the federal $7,500 tax credit for EV buyers, an added incentive that gets phased out after a manufacturer has sold 200,000 electric vehicles. The proposed bill also imposes a cap that would make any EVs priced over $80,000 ineligible for the tax credit, raising concerns at California-based Rivian, whose inaugural R1T pickup and R1S SUV may be too expensive to qualify under the new rules.

While EV manufacturing is gearing up, consumer adoption has a long way to go to hit Pritzker’s goal of 1 million EVs in the state by 2030. There are currently 46,645 electric vehicles registered in Illinois, or less than 1% of the state’s 10.3 million vehicles, according to Dave Druker, a spokesman for the Illinois secretary of state’s office.

Building out a public charging infrastructure remains a priority for a broader EV rollout, and a concern for owners planning a trip to the North Woods or other remote destinations.

There are 56,738 public charging stations in the U.S., including 1,484 in Illinois, according to the U.S. Department of Energy’s alternative fuels website. The network is far less developed for fast-charging stations, where drivers can fully charge their vehicles in 15 to 45 minutes, with 6,442 stations in the U.S. and 143 in Illinois.

An April study by Chicago-based car shopping app CoPilot shows the four states that have banded together in the Lake Michigan EV Circuit Tour are behind the curve in both EV adoption and charging infrastructure. Indiana ranked No. 37, Wisconsin No. 36, Michigan No. 31 and Illinois No. 19 on the list, which was topped by California.