Michigan must better prepare for electric vehicles to maintain mobility leadership, report says

Jordyn Grzelewski
The Detroit News

In order for Michigan to maintain its long-standing leadership in the mobility sector, the state must spearhead automated vehicle policies, become friendlier toward electric vehicles, and support government initiatives that encourage broader adoption of EVs, according to a new report released Tuesday.

Those are just a few of the policy recommendations from the Michigan Council on Future Mobility & Electrification's 2021 report, a follow-up to the inaugural one released earlier this year.

The council, created in February 2020 via an executive order by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, is housed within the state's Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and is tasked with providing annual recommendations on changes to state policy to the department, as well as the state's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the governor and the state legislature. The mission of the group — which is made up of leaders of several state departments and 10 members appointed by the governor who represent business, policy, research, technology and insurance industry interests — is to "ensure Michigan continues to be an epicenter of future transportation solutions around mobility and electrification."

In a statement accompanying the report, Lt. Gov. Garlin Gilchrist II said he and Whitmer "want to develop and attract the skills and talent necessary to meet the changing demands of the mobility sector."

“This is a challenge that Michiganders are ready to meet," he said. "After all, Detroit put the world on wheels and now it's time for us to be the leader in clean transportation, and we are ready."

The council's primary findings for the 2021 report are:

  • "Michigan must continue its leadership in automated vehicle policies and smart infrastructure deployment, while investing in the mobility sector and economic and talent development. It is also imperative for Michigan to become more EV-friendly and better prepared for electric vehicles, while implementing policies to ensure the future of transportation is safe and enhances mobility solutions for Michiganders.
  • "Government encouragement of the adoption of electric vehicles and the deployment of EV charging infrastructure is also a must in the Council’s view. While more research is required to develop efficient, targeted consumer incentive for electric vehicles themselves, the merits of incentives for charging infrastructure are well documented and easily replicated, and ready to be implemented with funding.
  • "The need to establish clear guardrails around the cybersecurity of intelligent transportation systems. Doing so will protect the safety Michigan residents and visitors."

The council also advised state leaders that Michigan must "be an advocate on federal policies" to ensure that federal lawmakers "make informed decisions on issues related to connected vehicle communications, transportation standards and mobility incentives."

In the council's view, acting on its recommendations could help the state "take a bold step forward and continue embracing the mobility and electrification sector." But it cautioned that ignoring its recommendations "will leave Michigan behind the competition and unlikely to catch up given the one-time nature of so many of the resources available to states today."

“We fully support the council’s findings and are prepared to do what it takes to ensure Michigan stays ahead of the curve in the mobility sector,” Susan Corbin, Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity director and chairwoman of the council, said in a statement.

The report also outlines some of the progress the state's mobility sector has made since the council released its first report in February. It notes, for example, that Michigan now has 26 automotive original equipment manufacturers, up from 24. And 96 of the top 100 automotive suppliers have a presence in the state, with 60 headquartered here.

It also notes Ford Motor Co.'s announcement earlier this year of a $100 million global battery center in Romulus, and General Motors Co.'s $402 million investment in Orion Township for the launch of the redesigned Chevrolet Bolt EV and Bolt EUV.

GM also recently announced a new battery cell innovation center it is building at its technical campus in Warren. And a news release announcing the report's release notes that Whitmer recently has announced several other mobility initiatives, including one to develop a wireless charging infrastructure and another to create a road trip route for EV owners along Lake Michigan.

Still, underscoring the competitive challenges the state faces, the report comes on the heels of Michigan losing out on Ford's announcement last month of an $11.4 billion investment, with joint-venture partner SK Innovation, to build EV and battery manufacturing campuses in Tennessee and Kentucky.

The report will be used by the state's Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, in coordination with other states agencies, to help determine action steps, according to a news release.

“The mobility industry is constantly evolving, and Michigan fully intends to evolve with it to retain its position as a leader in the field,” Trevor Pawl, the state's chief mobility officer, said in a statement.


Twitter: @JGrzelewski