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Sterling Heights salon gets electrified

By: Cortney Casey | Sterling Heights Sentry | Published January 19, 2011

 Mike Borsuck shows off the 220-volt charger, which reportedly can restore a vehicle’s charge from empty to full power in around four hours. Borsuck points at the screen, which provides a customized message to patrons.

Mike Borsuck shows off the 220-volt charger, which reportedly can restore a vehicle’s charge from empty to full power in around four hours. Borsuck points at the screen, which provides a customized message to patrons.

Photo by Cortney Casey


STERLING HEIGHTS — Everyone was abuzz about General Motors’ Chevy Volt around the same time Mike and Verna Borsuck were planning the new structure for their Sterling Heights-based Studio 9 Salon.

Inspired, Mike Borsuck added infrastructure for an electric vehicle charging station into the blueprints and applied online to receive a unit for free.

Time passed with no word, and he was unsure whether anything would come of it. But late last year, the charger arrived, just in time for the Volt’s release.

“I feel like I have the most brilliant husband in the world,” laughed Verna Borsuck. “He’s always ahead of his time.”

The Borsucks received the approximately $3,000 ChargePoint America unit at no cost from Coulomb Technologies, its manufacturer, as part of the company’s ChargePoint America program, a $37 million initiative that’s partially funded by a $15 million U.S. Department of Energy grant. The installation and wiring added another $3,500 to the bill, said Mike Borsuck.

The charger, a thin metallic tower, is located near the front door, alongside a parking space delineated, fittingly, with a green line. It includes both 110-volt and 220-volt capabilities; the lesser voltage uses an outlet obscured behind a door, while the higher one is transmitted using a nozzle-like device.

A system card, like one Mike Borsuck carries, or a swipe-free credit card is required to unlock the nozzle and activate the system, to prevent tampering from passersby, he said.

Coulomb allows charger owners to set their own price for consumers using the device. Mike Borsuck said the public is welcome to charge up at no cost, and he doesn’t plan to assess a fee from patrons unless it becomes cost-prohibitive for Studio 9.

He estimated the electrical cost of a four-hour charge — the time required to completely restore a depleted battery with the 220-volt charger — at around $1.20.

As of early January, the charger had been used only once: by GM employees who brought over a Volt to give the device a whirl. But Borsuck anticipates usage will begin to climb as the vehicles become increasingly available to the general public, especially considering the Volt’s recent designation as Car of the Year at the 2011 North American International Auto Show in Detroit.

“I just hope that it takes off,” he said. “I think it’s a good way to get rid of our oil dependency.”

Even if they don’t have electric vehicles, patrons are constantly inquiring about it, said Verna Borsuck.

“What a conservation piece,” she said. “It motivates people. It gets them thinking.”

City Planner Don Mende said such chargers don’t require Planning Commission approval, but do necessitate an electrical permit, acquired via the Building Department.

Mende said Studio 9’s charger is the only one he’s aware of within city limits. An interactive map on Coulomb’s website indicates additional ChargePoint America units are operational in Rochester, Troy and Warren.

City Manager Mark Vanderpool, who highlighted Studio 9’s charger in a recent report to City Council, commended the Borsucks on their “entrepreneurial spirit.”

“The cutting-edge technology represents a glimpse of what the vehicular future may look like,” he said, “and we are proud to say Sterling Heights is one of the first communities to have a business construct a vehicle charging station.”

The first ChargePoint America charger in the state was installed last September near NextEnergy Headquarters in downtown Detroit.

The program reportedly will supply nearly 5,000 such stations across nine distinct regions nationwide, including southern Michigan. Businesses can apply for free public stations; individuals who purchase a qualifying electric vehicle can request free home chargers.

In conjunction with the 2011 North American International Auto Show earlier this month, Center Parking Associates and Miller Parking Services LLC also announced the grand opening of a public charging station at the Center Garage on Renaissance Drive West in Detroit. The station reportedly allows users to swipe a credit card to pay the $2 fee, plus the cost of electricity, though free charging was offered during the week of the Auto Show.

According to the parking companies, an estimated 40 million plug-in electric vehicles will be in use by 2030.

Studio 9 Salon is located 37717 Mound, north of Metropolitan Parkway, in Sterling Heights. For more information on ChargePoint America, visit