Joshua Davis performs Sting's "Fields of Gold" on the April 27 broadcast of NBC's "The Voice." (Photo: NBC)

Clean Energy Innovators: Jim MacInnes

September 21, 2015 | |

When it comes to clean energy, Jim MacInnes, CEO of Crystal Mountain Resort, is the definition of pioneer and early adopter.

Over the years, he’s gradually transformed the beautiful golf, skiing, and conference center near Thompsonville into a remarkably green, energy-efficient operation. He’s deeply involved in trying to improve the state’s clean energy policies; and he regularly hosts a statewide conference focused on building a more sustainable economy in Michigan.

Full Interview w/ Jim MacInnes (Audio)

Jim also happens to drive one of the coolest cars on the planet. One of the first to purchase the plug-in hybrid Chevy Volt in 2011, he’s now moved on to an all-electric Tesla S85D. It goes from zero to 60 mph in 4.4 seconds, travels 270 miles between plug-ins, and can half-charge in about a half an hour. As Jim notes, that means he can drive from anywhere in the Lower Peninsula to Crystal on a single charge—for under $10. His fuel bill works out to about 3 cents a mile. 

When he’s not driving, Jim walks his talk at Crystal Mountain. When he purchased the company Volt, he installed a charging station that allows employees and guests to charge up. Last December the resort took it a step further and became Michigan’s second Tesla Driving Destination Partner, offering free “fill ups” to Tesla-owning visitors. 

Most Exciting Clean Energy Developments

Jim recently joined us at the Groundwork Center on Front St in Traverse City to chat about clean energy in a wide-ranging talk that covered grids, battery storage, and oil pipelines. You can watch and listen here on Jim’s Innovators for Clean Energy profile. It became clear early on that what Jim was most excited about was the future of electric cars. And it’s a bright one.

Jim and Crystal Mountain are part of a global trend toward electric vehicles that the U.S. is clearly leading. By the end of 2014, the US had 300,000 plug-in hybrid and “pure” electric autos on the road—that’s more than triple the number Japan, its closest competitor, has, and more than the combined total of Japan and the next three countries: China, Netherlands, and France. A recent UC-Davis study predicts 1 million electric cars on US roads in five years.

What Role Can Groundwork Center Play?

Even with their current range limitations, electric vehicle owners seem pretty happy. Ninety-two percent of battery electric and 94 percent of plug-in hybrid electrics plan to purchase another EV.

The cars are getting better too. Mass production is driving prices down, efficiency up, and sparking breakthrough technologies. Tesla’s Model S P85D, according to Tech Crunch, “Just Broke Consumer Reports”, scoring a103 out of 100. The Volt’s all-electric range improved more than 20 percent this year, from 40 to 50 miles on all-electric. The new Ford Focus Electric will get you about 100 mpg. And GM claims that it’s Chevy Bolt, out in 2016, has “the potential to completely shake up the status quo for electric vehicles as the first affordable long-range EV in the market.”

I got the chance to sit in Jim’s Tesla the other day and it struck me how un-carlike it felt. From the outside, it’s a hot-looking sports car. But that’s where the similarities end.

Enter the car and you are greeted by an enormous touch screen computer where the dashboard and dials should be. You are now inside a mobile, battery powered, rechargeable computer on wheels. When new efficiency-improving upgrades come out, Jim just downloads them. He can adjust alignment, suspension, torque, fuel use, sound system, seats, and just about everything else. It is truly amazing.

My wife and I would love to make our next car a shiny, new 2016 Chevy Volt, but we probably can’t make the finances work, although we are learning that common concerns about range and access to charging stations don’t really apply to that car.

The decision is difficult because, at 25 miles per gallon, four gallons a day, and $3 per gallon, we will spend about $10 a day on gas—a whopping $3,500 a year. That adds up to $35,000, about the cost of that new, 3-cents-a-mile Volt. And charging stations like Jim’s will continue popping up around Michigan as we move towards 1,000,000 EVs. Plugshare, a new EV app, lists 25 peer-to-peer charging stations in Northern Michigan. 

So here’s to Jim MacInnes, Crystal Mountain Resort, and all the early EV adopters, who are paving the way for the 1,000,000 electric-car market and beyond. May we all follow their lead!

So…honey…what do you say?

Dan Worth is an energy policy specialist for the Groundwork Center for Resilient Communities. Reach him at [email protected]

About the Series

From solar arrays to wind farms, net-zero homes to vehicle electrification projects, smart businesses to smart towns, Northern Michigan’s Clean Energy Innovators are making the area we love a hub for clean energy. The Groundwork Center has asked these pioneers to take a quick break from building the future to talk with us about their work and what excites them the most about the potential of a low-carbon economy in Northern Michigan.

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