The State of Michigan could gain new opportunities for outdoor recreation by building an infrastructure for electric vehicles (EV).
“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.
Garmon said many companies aim to have people try their products early on, whether it’s an electric snowmobile, all-terrain vehicle, motorcycle, or bicycle.
Giving consumers experiences with new products before they’re mass produced provides exposure for businesses and creates a unique opportunity for tourists, according to a report.
“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.
Garmon said the plan could also lead to rental and sales opportunities for local businesses, with electric vehicles as a good entry point.
“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.
He 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.
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.”
He said that 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.
“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.”
This article originally appeared on Michigan Advance.