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Report: Michigan Must Boost Investments, Grow Workforce to Lead in Mobility

November 21, 2022

The Detroit News
Nov. 16, 2022
Jordyn Grzelewski

Michigan must support new ways to expand its mobility workforce, invest in rapid transit and put in place a state-level consumer incentive for electric vehicles to bolster its position as a transportation leader.

Those are just a few of the 16 policy recommendations included in the Michigan Council on Future Mobility and Electrification’s latest annual report, released Wednesday.

The council’s work is intended to align with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s MI Future Mobility Plan, which is the state’s blueprint for maintaining mobility leadership through 2030. That strategy has three primary objectives: Transitioning and growing Michigan’s mobility industry and workforce; providing safer, greener and more accessible transportation infrastructure; and leading the world in mobility and electrification policy and innovation.

To support the first goal of bolstering Michigan’s mobility workforce, the council’s 2022 annual report recommends:

  • Investing in bus rapid transit and spending $10 million to “revive the state’s mobility challenges to solve for employment and equity barriers.”
  • Funding a public relations campaign “to enhance (Michigan’s) sustainability leadership.”
  • Scaling the Michigan EV Jobs Academy.
  • And creating a global center of excellence for responsible artificial intelligence.

To support the goal of providing safer, greener and more accessible transportation infrastructure to Michigan residents, the council recommends:

  • Expanding Michigan’s Alternative Fuel Corridor opportunities for clean hydrogen and commissioning a study on hydrogen applications in commercial traffic.
  • Developing accessibility standards for EV chargers.
  • Creating a state EV consumer incentive.
  • Funding a $45 million bus electrification program.
  • Expanding the use of sinking funds to support electric school bus deployments.
  • Supporting Phase 2 of the Michigan Department of Transportation’s work zone safety pilot program.
  • And designing a clean fuels standard “that works for Michigan.”

Derek Caveney, senior executive engineer for the integrated vehicle systems division at Toyota North America and a member of the council, highlighted the recommendation to scale the state’s EV academy as one that Toyota views as particularly critical, as well as complementary to its own workforce initiatives.

Representatives from EV maker Rivian Automotive Inc. and the nonprofit Clean Fuels Michigan emphasized their support for Michigan developing its own clean fuels standard.

“We’re really excited about clean fuels policies and that they’re proven to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and harmful air pollutants,” said Chris Nevers, senior director of public policy at Rivian. “Clean fuel standards are also powerful enablers of transportation electrification, and … clean fuel standards have created incentive frameworks that encourage automakers and charging providers to accelerate the development and deployment of highly utilized EVs and charging infrastructure, while being neutral to state budgets.”

Meanwhile, for Michigan to lead in mobility and electrification globally, the council’s recommendations include:

  • Investing $30 million into the development of uncrewed aerial systems, or UAS, technology.
  • Passing legislation to preserve Michigan’s uniform, statewide automated vehicle policy.
  • Maintaining annual support for state mobility agencies’ capacity.
  • Passing legislation to create a mobility research and development talent tax credit.
  • Continuing to advocate to federal policymakers “on important connected vehicle issues.”

The council, founded in 2020, is housed within the state Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity and provides annual policy recommendation to that office, as well as the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification, the governor and the state legislature. It’s made up of business, policy and government stakeholders — including Ford Motor Co., General Motors Co., Stellantis NV, Toyota Motor Corp., Rivian, self-driving vehicle company Waymo LLC, the University of Michigan, Michigan State University, state legislators, the United Auto Workers, Clean Fuels Michigan, and eight state departments and agencies.