Michigan Rethinks Electric Vehicles as the Motor City 2.0 Surges in New Identity   

Governor Gretchen Whitmer charges an electric vehicle.  


Electric vehicles (EV) are the wave of the future and Michigan (especially Detroit) is holding on to a glimmer of rechargeable hope that is not a Band-Aid, quick gimmick or alternate reality for the budding automotive manufacturing industry locally. This move is here to stay and the Motor City is in it for the long haul.  

This year alone, the auto industry made great strides in enlarging its EV footprint into ever-expanding territory where electric driving is possible.  

General Motors (GM) recently released its 12th annual Sustainability Report for 2021, which shows accelerated progress toward an equitable, all-electric future. The report shows the expanding EV access, electrifying beyond the personal vehicle, and helping to ensure that climate action is equitable and inclusive as the company transitions to an all-electric future.   

The report’s highlight includes how:   

  • GM is prioritizing equitable climate action to help ensure its all-electric future is inclusive for current and future workforce, customers and communities.   
  • The company launched a $50 million philanthropic fund with a focus on initiatives aimed at helping to close equity gaps in the transition to EVs.   
  • Factory ZERO, GM’s first fully-dedicated EV assembly plant, opened in Michigan.   
  • GM is investing nearly $750 million in charging infrastructure through 2025.   
  • BrightDrop launched to electrify e-commerce delivery.   

GM, a global company and home to Buick, Cadillac, GMC and Chevrolet, has new electric vehicle releases coming online for this year and next.  

GM CEO Mary Barra announced earlier this year that EVs are already here and the company’s lofty but attainable goals are where technology and people connect toward a safer future filled with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion is a more than plausible reality with a greater goal in mind.     

“We are creating world-class solutions,” Barra said previously of building that EV future including prioritizing to become carbon neutral by 2040.    

“Technology driven by purpose will change the world,” said Deborah Wahl, GM’s global chief marketing officer in a press release. “GM is redefining how people and goods are moved. Our commitment to a vision of a world with zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion has positioned us to lead. As we implement our growth strategy, we have an opportunity and, frankly, an obligation to create a better future for generations to come.”   

With EVs come charging stations – something that Michigan is amplifying as Governor Gretchen Whitmer announced earlier this year that the automotive state is receiving $110 million over five years to expand an EV Charging Infrastructure. The funds are made possible by the passage of the federal bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA), where the U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration will invest $5 billion in formula funding across the country to build the first-ever national network of EV chargers.  

“Thanks to the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Michigan is expected to receive $110 million over 5 years in formula funding to build up electric vehicle charging infrastructure and help the state continue leading the future of mobility and electrification,” said Whitmer. “We have an historic opportunity to put Michigan first and use the billions in funding we are expected to receive to support thousands of good-paying clean energy jobs, make electric vehicles more accessible and affordable and usher in a new era of prosperity for our state.”  

“The federal support for electric vehicles comes at a very good time for Michigan as our department works with other state agencies and private-sector interests to develop a charging network with neighboring states through the Lake Michigan EV Circuit,” said the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) Director Paul C. Ajegba. “Even more exciting, this comes on the heels of the governor’s announcement of an MDOT partnership with Electreon to deploy wireless charging on a state route.”  

From Western Michigan University unveiling new public electric vehicle chargers on campus (through a $50,000 grant from Consumers Energy’s PowerMIFleet initiative) to Whitmer announcing a partnership to install electric vehicle chargers in Michigan State Parks, Michigan has a lot going for it, starting in Detroit.   

During a Michigan Chronicle’s Pancakes & Politics first-ever Overdrive series on Monday, May 23, at Greater New Mount Moriah Missionary Baptist Church, Senators Debbie Stabenow and Gary Peters held in-depth conversations on a myriad of topics.  

At the event, Sonya Mays, president and CEO of Develop Detroit Inc., said Detroit and greater southeast Michigan have been “in an arms race” the last several years for the future of the automotive industry.  

Mays asked the senators to talk about how they’re leading the state at the federal level “so we can be as competitive as possible as our country shifts to electric.”   

Stabenow, a senior member of the Senate Finance Committee, said that the answer is already here and the future is limitless.  

“The reality is we have the innovation in Michigan – the workers. We have the leaders here in Michigan, we have to just double down to support what the industry is doing here as they are moving forward with tens of billions of dollars on electric vehicles,” Stabenow said, adding that the state’s infrastructure bill, Building Michigan Together Plan, a bipartisan infrastructure bill, delivers on several proposals last year on how to best invest federal resources and the state’s surplus – including funding for charging stations across the state.  

Stabenow, who just purchased a fully electric vehicle (and plans to drive to Washington, D.C. from Michigan and recharging along the way) said that the infrastructure legislation also has about $8 billion to invest in battery innovation.   

“We’ve got to have those battery plants made here, the cells made here, the battery packs here so that the jobs are here in our country,” she said, adding that Michigan can’t be dependent on China for EV materials and parts. “We have to be here.”  

Peters agreed, adding that the future for mobility lies in autonomous vehicles, or self-driving cars, in which, he said, auto companies are making major investments.  

“[This] will lead the world going forward and all the engineers tell us the ideal power plant for self-driving cars is electric – this is all kind of a building process for autonomy and autonomy will change the world dramatically,” he said, adding that “one of the biggest changes” will be safety. “We lose close to 40,000 people on our highways every year.”  

From safety to investments in Michigan, Peters said that Michigan is “all hands on deck” with this EV move, staying ahead of the curve.  

“Our vehicles, we are making right here in Detroit,” Peters said adding that keeping close to home works best in harnessing these new technologies today. “When we win the race here, we are ideally suited here in Detroit, in Southeast Michigan and Michigan in general, to be the future of that.” 


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