KALAMAZOO, Mich. (WOOD) — With a snap of the scissors, electric vehicle drivers can now supercharge their way around Western Michigan University’s campus and the surrounding Kalamazoo area.

“It’s an exciting day to partner with Consumers to expand our capacity to offer electric charging stations, to be one of the largest suppliers of electric charging stations of any university in the country,” said WMU President Edward Montgomery.

WMU worked with Consumers Energy to utilize a $50,000 grant from the company’s PowerMIFleet initiative to bring 10 ChargePoint stations to campus.

“We started on scoping out this program three years ago (and) launched it last year,” said Sarah Nielsen, Consumers Energy’s executive director for EV programs. “Now, these are the first chargers in the ground that are bearing fruit from that. It’s so exciting already seeing vehicles hooked up and knowing there is going to be a lot more to come.”

  • Western Michigan University officially unveils new ChargePoint charging stations on campus. Left to right, Pete Strazdas, associate vice president for facilities management; Sarah Nielsen, director of EV programs for Consumers Energy; WMU President Edward Montgomery; and Jeff Spoelstra, director of the Office for Sustainability. (Courtesy WMU)
  • Western Michigan University unveiled new ChargePoint charging stations on campus on May 11, 2022. (Courtesy WMU)
  • A ribbon-cutting for Western Michigan's near electrical vehicle charging stations, called ChargePoints, was held on May 11, 2022.
  • Electric vehicles on display at the ribbon-cutting for new charging stations on Western Michigan University's campus. (May 11, 2022)
  • Electric vehicles on display at the ribbon-cutting for new charging stations on Western Michigan University's campus. (May 11, 2022)

The 10 dual-use stations can recharge up to 20 electric vehicles at one time — the most offered by any university in the state, according to WMU. Six of them stand next to the solar array by Miller Auditorium, with others are located near the engineering, administration, office of sustainability and physical plant facilities.

“It’s a great opportunity for our students,” Montgomery added. “It’s a great opportunity for the university to both be a leader in environmental sustainability and to help do research for the future.”

University leaders are thrilled but so are drivers depending on the stations to keep them going from point A to point B, like Mike Walenga.

While working maintenance at WMU, Walenga considers himself an EV enthusiast. But when he was on the market for one nine years ago, he wasn’t impressed with his options.

“I had always been interested in electric vehicles. Back in 2013, 2014, there weren’t too many of them around,” Walenga explained. “I wanted something a little bit bigger than what was available at the point.”

Rather than buying one, he decided to make one himself as a passion project. Using the body of a 2002 Saturn Vue and the battery of a Nissan Leaf, he cruises around in a reinvented EV. While his ride may only have 45 miles in range, Walenga said it gets the job done for him.

“I know the limitations of the car. It was built for a specific purpose — back-and-forth to work and local,” Walenga explained. “Once you know how far you have to go, you don’t have any range anxiety. You just know the limits. It’s no big deal.”

Walenga was among the dignitaries and electric vehicle owners welcoming in the charging stations to WMU’s campus. He’s thrilled his hot rod has more locations to recharge, even while he is on the clock.

“It’s great. It was my daily driver to work for quite a while,” Walenga said. “It’s nice to have the charging available … so I can run it again.”

University leaders also say they plan to completely convert their fleet from all-gasoline to all-electric within the next ten years, all while taking another step forward towards a carbon neutral footprint by 2065.