Buses, highways, chargers: Michigan experts plan for electric future

November 16, 2022

Investing in public transit, infrastructure and the workforce could usher Michigan into an electric era.

This is according to the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification. Created two years ago, the council brings proposals on how Michigan can lead in mobility – a broad term for the electric and autonomous vehicle industries

The group outlined 16 policy changes and investments in its 2022 report released Wednesday.

“It’s like Christmas for mobility policy,” said Michigan Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl.

Suggestions fell under three pillars introduced by Gov. Gretchen Whitmer at the North American International Auto Show this fall including: growing the mobility industry and workforce; providing safe, green and accessible transportation infrastructure; and leading the world in mobility policy and innovation.

At the top of the list: Michigan’s public bus system.

The report says it “borders on embarrassing” that people living in the auto state have “systemic mobility problems.” So, the council recommended investing in rapid bus systems and spending $10 million to address mobility challenges.

Members say this is key to supporting workers after Michigan landed electric vehicle investments this year expected to create thousands of jobs. But Pawl says that’s only “one step in the value chain” and the state should build a system that allows workers to “thrive and have transportation options.

“This was a need that kept bubbling up from external stakeholders,” he said. “And it would be a big miss on our part if we didn’t lead on transit because, candidly, there’s a lot of work that can be done here.”

The council also suggested Michigan launch a $45 million program to provide 80 electric buses to schools and public transit agencies across the state. Using an electric school bus instead of diesel could save a district an estimated $230,000 per bus over a 14-year lifespan, according to Pawl.

“These are really important to continue spreading the benefits of transportation electrification, beyond just passenger vehicle travel, and making sure that this transition is benefiting all of the communities across Michigan,” said Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan.

Seven policies related to electric vehicles were also recommended by the council.

They included creating a clean fuels standard for Michigan, accessibility standards for electric vehicle chargers and incentives like a $2,000 rebate for buying an electric vehicle and $500 for home charging infrastructure.

“Creating an incentive program to help Michiganders access electric vehicles is very important to make sure that the Michiganders who design and build these vehicles can access them until we reach the point where electric vehicles are at cost parity with internal combustion engine vehicles,” McCurry said.

Four additional Michigan highways could be designated “alternative fuel corridors” if the council’s recommendation is adopted. This network of electric vehicle charging stations and hydrogen, propane, and natural gas fueling options spreads across all 50 states.

Proposed highways include I-94, I-96, I-69 and I-75 from the Ohio border to Detroit,

“This includes the adding clean hydrogen and commissioning a study on hydrogen applications and commercial traffic,” Pawl said. (Fuel cell electric cars are powered by hydrogen.)

Michigan already has four alternative fuel corridors with U.S.-2, U.S.-31, U.S.-127 and U.S.-131. Additionally, governors of five Great Lakes states agreed earlier this year to build a regional electric vehicle charging network creating an “electric Route 66″ along the Lake Michigan shoreline.

Since last year’s report, Michigan won five major electric vehicle projects with the help of $2 billion in economic incentives. This includes a $7 billion investment from General Motors, $2.4 billion battery plant from a Chinese manufacturer and a $1.6 billion electric vehicle gigafactory in Wayne County.