RACINE — Thousands of travelers tour the Lake Michigan shoreline every year.
With electric vehicles becoming more prevalent on the roads, the City of Racine — as well as the states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Illinois and Indiana — want to make sure that travel continues.
The Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit Tour is a new collaboration among the four states to create a road trip tour specifically with electric vehicles in mind.
The City of Racine held a conference with state and local leaders Tuesday morning at City Hall, 730 Washington Ave., with speakers talking from a podium underneath the city’s existing solar EV charging station.
The goal of the EV Circuit Tour project is to create new charging stations that connect with existing ones to promote green travel along Lake Michigan, to allow the tour to be possible without the use of fossil fuels.
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It can remain challenging for electric vehicle owners to travel long distances since charging takes so much longer than filling up a gas tank, and there are far fewer EV charging stations than gas stations.
“This will future-proof Wisconsin tourism and create many more opportunities for our communities, our workforce, our residents and our visitors alike,” said Wisconsin Department of Administration Secretary-Designee Kathy Blumenfeld. “This is what the future will look like.”
Installations are planned for “key coastal communities,” she said, such as tourist attractions, state parks, lighthouses, golf courses, restaurants and small businesses.
The electric vehicle charging station located at City Hall, installed last year, is one of what will be dozens of access points that will make up the EV tour.
“One of the things that makes a relaxing vacation is knowing that you will be able to travel to your destination and back safely,” said Wisconsin Department of Transportation Secretary Craig Thompson, a Racine native. “The biggest factor that brings peace of mind is knowing that when you need a charging station, there will be one nearby.”
Racine on the leading edge
The Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit Tour is a part of the state’s first-ever Clean Energy Plan. The overall plan includes reducing pollution, improving residents’ health and boosting the economy while ensuring the future of the state, Blumenfeld said. The state plans to work on this project together with businesses, stakeholders and state and local leaders as well as the Department of Tourism, the Department of Transportation and the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation.
Blumenfeld said Racine has been “at the leading edge” of electric vehicle development for a while, noting Racine launched the largest electric bus fleet in the state.
“The City of Racine has been deeply committed to sustainability and moving forward towards our goal of achieving the Paris Climate Accord,” Racine Mayor Cory Mason said. “We are so excited about what the future of sustainability looks like here in the State of Wisconsin under Gov. (Tony) Evers’ leadership.”
The Lake Michigan Electric Vehicle Circuit Tour is expected to connect ecotourism efforts, create new jobs, boost local businesses and promote Wisconsin as the leader in EV adoption along neighboring states, Blumenfeld said.
The full Lake Michigan circuit covers 1,100 miles of shoreline; the Wisconsin portion of the route is approximately 350 miles. Most of the route is already electrified. The Wisconsin portion currently includes 230 charging stations.
Chargers are to be built based on the number of annual tourists using the network. The state already has many chargers either in-progress or completed, Blumenfeld said, and state administration is working to eliminate range anxiety or charging anxiety for travelers.
The closest charging station to Racine’s is 16 miles away in Oak Creek. Currently, use of the Racine charging station is free for drivers. Mason said he is unsure if it will remain that way.
Wisconsin is working with the partner states to determine the best locations for new EV charging stations. Stations are to be located close to the highway and at least every 50 miles along the route.
Optimal locations will be an easy walking distance from dining and shopping opportunities, as well as other tourist attractions, Thompson said. Travelers may utilize these amenities to stay occupied while they wait for their battery to charge. An EV could charge in as little as 30 minutes or as much as several hours; it depends on the vehicle and the battery.
Informational signs are additionally to be installed along the EV route alerting motorists that there are charging stations available.
“Switching from fossil-fuel-powered vehicles to electric vehicles, powered by more sustainable sources, is one of the most important things we can do to reduce our carbon footprint,” Thompson said.
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