Pushing for Progress Toward Electrifying Michigan

The State of Michigan is gearing up for electrifying changes in the automotive world in the next few decades, thanks in large part to the dedicated teams on Governor Whitmer's Council on Future Mobility and Electrification and Council on Climate Solutions.  

For many years, the Ecology Center has been working to transform Michigan's transportation system toward electrification and equitable access. An electric transportation system, powered by clean energy, drastically reduces carbon emissions and asthma-causing air pollution. 

As a workgroup participant for the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification (CFME),  co-chair of the Transportation and Mobility Working Group, and a longtime EV advocate, Ecology Center Climate and Energy Director Charles Griffith has been pushing for progress.

Just last week, the Council on Future Mobility and Electrification (CFME) released a new report with recommendations to advance transportation electrification and advanced mobility. In addition to maintaining Michigan’s automotive leadership and creating green jobs, advancing transportation electrification would reduce carbon emissions, and improve air quality and the health of millions of Michiganders. 

Implementing the CFME report recommendations is an important step toward climate justice, alleviating pollution-related health problems that disproportionately impact communities of color. 

Electric vehicles are the future of mobility, but MI currently lags in the development of policies that help facilitate this transition and risks getting left behind,” said Griffith, “For our climate, our economy, and our health, we must now kick these efforts into high gear. Implementing the Council’s recommendations is a necessary first step to providing national leadership  in promoting automotive technology and innovation.” - Charles Griffith, EC Climate & Energy Director 

As a CFME Workgroup participant, Griffith was instrumental in drafting the recommendations, including one that builds on an Ecology Center research report which found that the state’s electric vehicle (EV) fees were higher than that paid by comparable gasoline vehicles. The CFME report proposes a pilot study for taxing EVs taking into account their greater efficiency.

The CFME report also advocates for:

  • A $50m pilot program to demonstrate electric buses, infrastructure and technical assistance for public and school transit.
  • Funding and new policies to rapidly scale public and private EV charging infrastructure
  • Development of an incentive program to increase adoption of zero-emission vehicles and trucks
  • A new EV Academy to train and retain a skilled EV workforce

In addition to the recent work of the CFME, the Council on Climate Solutions was charged with making recommendations to the Governor on how the state can achieve 100% carbon neutrality by 2050.  Griffith was appointed as co-chair of the Transportation and Mobility Working Group, one of five working groups reporting to the Council.  

While the Council won’t release their recommendations until early next year, Griffith and working group co-chair Judd Herzer, policy director for the state Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, presented workgroup recommendations to the Council on October 19. The recommendations included a range of policies to accelerate adoption of EV’s as well as encourage greater access to shared mobility, thus reducing the number of miles that people drive in personal vehicles.  The combination of these policies, the workgroup argued, offers the fastest path to decarbonizing the transportation sector, which is now MI’s biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions.  Public comments on the Transportation and Mobility recommendations can be made to the Council at: EGLE-TransportMobilityClimate@Michigan.gov

Another significant initiative, recently announced by Governor Whitmer, is a new multi-state collaboration called REV Midwest.  This initiative was seeded in 2019, when Griffith and the Ecology Center helped facilitate two days of meetings in Detroit, hosting over 50 representatives from state governments, automotive companies, electric utilities, and environmental organizations across 10 states.  Alongside five of those states, Michigan has signed a new Regional Electric Vehicle Midwest Memorandum of Understanding (REV Midwest MOU) aimed at increasing charging infrastructure.  

The MOU will center its efforts on the charging infrastructure needs for commercial heavy and medium duty trucks. The Ecology Center anticipates there will be opportunities for stakeholder engagement and will remain a critical voice of environmental advocacy within the effort. 

 According to an NPR article on the agreement, Michigan, Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota, and Wisconsin promise to "work together to enable an equitable transition to electric vehicles for all with specific consideration for communities that are historically disadvantaged," such as ones situated near highways or freight and shipping facilities, where emissions are most concentrated.

This focus fits squarely with the Ecology Center’s vision to accelerate the electrification of trucks, buses, and delivery vehicles, whose emissions have been growing due to the growth of e-commerce and rapid shipping services like Amazon. While making up about a quarter of the transportation sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, diesel commercial trucks are responsible for more than half of the lung-damaging emissions of particulate matter and nitrogen oxides, much of it in communities already suffering from a disproportionate share of poor air quality and impacted health.   

These recent strides toward reducing Michigan's transportation emissions give us hope that Michigan is on a path toward climate justice and clean energy equity. The greatest challenge lies ahead– implementing the Councils’ recommendations. No matter how challenging this feat becomes, one thing is sure, you can count on the Ecology Center to stay engaged and watchdog the process to ensure that Michigan will meet the climate challenge. 
 

Published on October 21, 2021