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Last week was Drive Electric Week, and Michiganians across the state are beginning to realize the many benefits of driving an electric vehicle (EV). EV sales zoomed past projections every month of the year in 2017, and EV sales were 31 percent higher in 2017 than 2016. With more than 28,500 jobs in the advanced transportation industry, Michigan is uniquely positioned to lead in this emerging sector.

Why go electric?

A key benefit to owning an EV is the savings. Research shows that longer vehicle life and lower fuel and maintenance costs make EVs cheaper annually than regular gasoline vehicles, even before federal purchase incentives, and state programs to accelerate EV purchases, including innovative and attractive EV charging rates. The fact is, electricity is cheaper per mile than gas. While gas costs a little more than $2.50 per gallon, the comparative cost for EVs is just $1.20 per “e-gallon” — less than half the cost of traditional gasoline.

Traditional cars that run on gasoline require excessive maintenance, including regular oil changes and trips to the mechanic. Electric vehicles don’t need oil changes, and because they are engineered to operate with only one moving part in the motor, they are much less susceptible to engine issues. In fact, for owners of a new Chevy Bolt, the first scheduled maintenance isn’t due until 100,000 miles.

Self-driving vehicles are the next big step for the transportation industry, and this mobility industry is increasingly based on electric vehicle technology. At the federal level, lawmakers are taking steps to move self-driving vehicle development forward. In fact, last week the U.S. House took an unusual bipartisan approach by passing HR 3388, titled, “the SELF DRIVE Act,” to create a uniform regulatory structure for this new vehicle technology.

Building on our automotive heritage, Michigan has positioned itself as a leader in mobility services, including Planet M, a public-private partnership initiated by state government; the American Center for Mobility in Ypsilanti; and the upcoming Powering Mobility conference on Monday, Sept. 25 in Detroit, focusing on the convergence of energy, telecommunications and transportation.

Advancements in battery technology will also play a critical role in getting more EVs on the road as Michigan’s battery industry continues to grow. LG Chem just announced another $25 million investment in Hazel Park that is expected to result in over 250 jobs. The industry is at the forefront of developing the technology necessary to continue to power advanced electric vehicles and support the electricity grid. Marrying together state mobility strategies with opportunities to scale EV usage and battery development gives Michigan a unique win-win opportunity.

Electric vehicles save drivers money and are the future of transportation. In addition, EVs are increasingly central to development and deployment of self-driving vehicles.

As home to the U.S. auto industry and a major global player in both batteries and the development of mobility solutions, Michigan is uniquely positioned to lead in this industry and develop the cars of the future. Indeed, we already are.

Liesl Clark is president of the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council.

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