Democrats’ hard push for electric vehicles would upend Michigan economy

Democratic presidential candidates competing in Michigan’s March 10 primary are proposing climate change plans that could upsend MIchigan’s economy and workforce. (Shutterstock)

LANSING — Democratic presidential candidates are pushing climate change plans that would require all new cars to be fully electric in the next decade or two, goals that could upend Michigan automakers and reshape the workforce of the state’s largest industry. 

But experts say the proposals may be unrealistic given political realities, automaker production plans and current consumer purchasing preferences. 

“It’s challenging even before you get to the question of technicality,” said Barry Rabe, a professor at the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. “This is going to be a really tough political issue.”

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Michigan’s primary is March 10, and blue-collar issues are crucial in a battleground state where more than 175,000 residents have jobs in motor vehicles and parts manufacturing, a dominant sector in the economy. 

Republican President Donald Trump won Michigan by 10,704 votes in 2016 after promising to renegotiate unfair trade deals and focus on manufacturing-friendly policies.

Democratic proposals to overhaul the auto industry could create huge retooling costs for automakers and displace thousands of workers who build the kind of internal combustion engines that would be eliminated. 

Along with new regulations, progressive candidates including U.S. Sens. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts promise major government spending on research and development, worker retraining programs, charging stations and consumer subsidies to end the sale of carbon emitting vehicles by 2030. 

Former Vice President Joe Biden wants to build 500,000 charging stations around the country “so that we can go to a full electric vehicle future” by 2030. And fellow moderates including former New York Mayor Mike Bloomberg and former South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg want all new vehicles to be emissions-free by 2035.

Still, even electric vehicle advocates in Michigan question Democrats’ aggressive timelines. In 2019, electric vehicles accounted for 2 percent of all light vehicle sales in the United States.

“It’s not a bad goal, because it’s technologically doable, but to actually have policies in place to be able to make everyone shift that rapidly is fairly difficult to imagine,” said Charles Griffith, director of the climate and energy program at the Ecology Center in Ann Arbor.

‘A huge political lift’

The Democratic proposals come as Trump battles California over state regulations and attempts to roll back national standards put in place under Democratic President Barack Obama. The rules would have required automakers to increase fleetwide fuel efficiency by 5 percent between 2021 and 2026, requiring a real-world average of 36 miles per gallon. 

The prolonged battle over fuel economy standards has divided Michigan automakers who are enjoying strong sales of SUVs and trucks but have each announced significant long-term plans to produce more electric and hybrid vehicles.   

Trump lashed out at Ford Motor Co. last year after the Dearborn-based firm and three other automakers struck a deal with California to reduce emissions and meet tougher standards in the liberal state which already leads the county in electric vehicle sales. General Motors Corp. and Fiat Chrysler have largely sided with the White House. 

A potential Democratic president seeking to end electric vehicle sales by 2030 or 2035 would need to work with Congress to pass major auto industry legislation, and that would be a “huge political lift,” Rabe said. 

Or the president would have to try and use administrative powers to “completely reverse the policy of the current president, who spent four years reversing the policies of his predecessor, through rules, regulations courts and battles,” Rabe said.

Democrats say their push for vehicle electrification is about saving the planet, but conservatives warn the kind of climate change plans pushed by presidential candidates under the umbrella concept of a Green New Deal could cause “economic pain” and concentrate power in Washington D.C. 

“Do you want the federal government to control what kind of car you drive and what type of energy you buy?” Heritage Foundation economist Nicolas Loris asked in a recent essay. “Because the end goal of the Green New Deal is to eliminate the use of coal, oil, natural gas, nuclear and the internal-combustion engine.”

Consumer incentives

Despite a full decade of federal incentives designed to encourage sales, electric vehicles sales have so far failed to take off in the U.S. 

Michigan consumers bought 3,571 electric cars in 2018. That was up 30 percent from 2017 but still accounted for less than 1 percent of all light vehicles sold in the state, according to the most recent sales data from the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

As of 2018, electric vehicles accounted for nearly 8 percent of all sales in California, easily the highest rate in the nation. California is one of ten states that have set their own zero-emission vehicle standards, requiring 7 percent to 10 percent of all sales be electric by 2025. 

Since 2010, the federal government has offered a $7,500 tax credit for consumers who purchase an electric vehicle. Those credits phase out once an automaker has sold 200,000 electric vehicles, a cap already hit by Tesla and GM. 

Biden and Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota have pledged to restore the full electric vehicle tax credit for all automakers, while other Democratic presidential candidates including Sanders, Buttigieg, Warren and Bloomberg propose more expansive vehicle buy-back programs modeled after “cash for clunkers,” Obama’s 2009 stimulus program to incentivize new car purchases.

Sanders is proposing two major buy-back programs, including $2.09 trillion in grants and $681 billion in incentives for low- and moderate-income families and small businesses to trade in their vehicles for electric models, with larger incentives for American-made cars.

Electric vehicle sales appeared to fall slightly in 2019, said Griffith of the Ecology Center. He attributed the decline to pent-up demand for the Tesla Model 3, which hit the market in 2018 and boosted sales that year, and shrinking subsidies for GM and Tesla that will end later this year.

But Griffith said he expects demand to increase in coming years as companies like Ford (which is planning an electric F-150 and Mustang Mach E) and Plymouth-based startup Rivian offer new models that appeal to customers who prefer larger vehicles. 

“As we see more and more of the utility vehicle and trucks and everything else start to electrify, I think there will be a lot more opportunity for consumers to find a vehicle that meets not only their environmental needs, but their other transportation desires… and personal tastes,” he said.

Automaker aims

Detroit automakers are touting their own aggressive electrification plans and preparing to unleash an “onslaught” of new battery electric and hybrid models on the buying public in coming years, said Kristin Dziczek, a vice president at the Center for Automotive Research.

Still, she expects automakers would oppose the kind of aggressive mandates proposed by most Democratic presidential candidates.

“The industry is going to want to see the market drive this,” Dziczek said. “The regulations are important, incentives are important, but they’re not going to want the cart to get too far ahead of the horse. They’re going to want to make sure the market is there.” 

Roughly 7 percent of light vehicles produced in the U.S. last year were either electric or hybrids, a rate inflated by Tesla production in California. 

Michigan has 11 assembly plants and some 2,200 automotive research or design facilities, according to the Detroit Regional Chamber. Only 4 percent of vehicles manufactured in Michigan were electrified in 2019, but Tesla is “about to get a whole heck of a lot of competition,” from Detroit, Dziczek said. 

GM, citing a vision for an “all-electric future,” recently announced plans to invest $2.2 billion at it’s Detroit-Hamtramck plant to produce a variety of all-electric trucks and SUVs. The Detroit-based automaker is already producing the battery electric Bolt in Orion Township and plug-in hybrids at two Lansing-area factories.

Ford in November announced plans to produce battery electric and hybrid versions of its popular F-150 truck in Dearborn, part of a $1.45 billion investment in Michigan facilities.  

Fiat Chrysler last year announced plans to produce plug-in hybrid Jeeps, with the potential for fully electric models in the future, as part of a $4.5 billion expansion in Metro Detroit.

By 2026, 24 percent of all vehicles manufactured in Michigan will be either electric or hybrids, according to Dziczek, compared to 22.5 percent in the rest of the country. 

That’s still a far cry from the fully electric future Democratic presidential candidates hope to stimulate in the next 10 or 15 years. 

“A vast majority of the vehicles we expect will be sold out to 2040 will be internal combustion only or will be hybridized,” Dziczek said. “So they’re still going to have an engine and a transmission.”

While future U.S. regulations are uncertain, experts said domestic automakers have been moving toward electric vehicles to sell in major markets that have stronger fuel efficiency mandates or carbon taxes, including the European Union and Canada. China has experimented with carbon taxes in major cities since 2011 and is planning nationwide adoption. 

Those regulations “could really make expanded electrical vehicle production attractive” for U.S. manufacturers, but the industry outlook could depend on what international trade policies will look like under Trump or a new president, Rabe said. 

Trump has renegotiated the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and Mexico, but long-term relationships with China and the European Union remain in flux. As recently as last month, Trump renewed threats to impose high tariffs on vehicle imports if the E.U. doesn’t agree to a new trade deal, which could prompt retaliation. 

“Michigan is a huge factor in this, but Michigan is an island in a national political context but an international world of trade, and all of these things relate,” Rabe said. “Michigan and its citizens and representatives have to think about how they’re going to play that and try to influence it.”

What about workers?

While Democratic candidates are proposing a transformational shift in the auto industry, few are discussing how that transition will impact workers in Michigan and other states. 

“For Michigan, that potentially has huge consequences,” Rabe said. “What are going to be the transition issues for workers who either have to learn a new skill or perhaps adjust dramatically?”

Buttigieg, in his plan, proposes technology transition loans for automakers to retool assembly lines that build powertrains, the engine, transmission, drivetrain and other parts that make cars run.

Buttigieg insists the “future of transportation must be built in the U.S. by American workers with high-paying, high-quality careers.” Sanders promises to “create millions of good-paying, unionized jobs building the automobile fleet of the future.”

But union leaders fear electrification could do the opposite, leading to fewer jobs and lower pay in the auto industry. 

Questions over electric production complicated contract negotiations between GM and the United Auto Workers that culminated in a strike last year. 

The shift toward electric vehicles is “an opportunity to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing,” the UAW wrote in a 39-page research paper proposing strategies for a “fair” future.

“This opportunity will be lost if [electric vehicles] or their components are imported or made by low-road suppliers who underpay workers. In order to preserve American jobs and work standards, what is needed is a proactive industrial policy that creates high-quality manufacturing jobs making EVs and their components.”

Industry disruptions could be magnified in Michigan, which is one of the top states in the nation for engine and transmission production, according to Dziczek. 

Moving away from internal combustion engines to electric motors could have a ripple effect on industry suppliers, she said.

“That’s a lot of employment that is on the line as these vehicles transition. Plug-in hybrids, hybrids and all that stuff are going to still need engines and transmissions, but not as many and not as big.”

Bloomberg News, founded by the presidential candidate, has reported extensively on automakers cutting jobs, primarily in the European Union, as they shift toward electric vehicle production. 

Job retraining programs and manufacturer assistance could be part of the mix under a Bloomberg presidency, according to senior advisor Antha Williams. However, his published clean transportation plan does not include funding for industry or worker transitions.

“We think the most important thing in the short term is to set the ambitious target” of all electric vehicles sales by 2035, she said, “but I think we want to bring the full power of the federal government to bear in making the transition to a clean energy economy.”

The UAW, in its 2019 report, said the shift to electric vehicles must include job retraining programs and financial support for transitioning workers.

Trade policies should discourage importation of electric vehicle components, and government production incentives should be targeted to promote a domestic supply chain, the union said. 

“What is needed is a proactive industrial policy that promotes the production of EVs and their components in the U.S. under higher road conditions that benefit American workers and the communities that rely on manufacturing jobs.”

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Comments

Kevin Grand
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 7:23am

I think that it is really important to pull back the curtain and really explain WHY the democrats are so gung-ho on implementing the Green New Deal.

The rationale behind it isn't as obvious as those in the media would like you to believe. I'm honestly surprised and somewhat disappointed that even The Bridge didn't feel that this was worth mentioning it to its readers.

From the former chief of staff of Green New Deal sponsor AOC herself Saikat Chakrabarti:

"Chakrabarti had an unexpected disclosure. “The interesting thing about the Green New Deal,” he said, “is it wasn’t originally a climate thing at all.” Ricketts greeted this startling notion with an attentive poker face. “Do you guys think of it as a climate thing?” Chakrabarti continued. “Because we really think of it as a how-do-you-change-the-entire-economy thing.”

https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/magazine/wp/2019/07/10/feature/how-s...

Oh, wait! That link got scrubbed. I cannot imagine why.

Try this working link instead.

https://web.archive.org/web/20190710182803/https://www.washingtonpost.co...

Bad things always occur when the government decides to involve itself into how the economy operates.

Bones
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:51am

Looks like another chud was too simple to read the words "New Deal" in the Green New Deal. What a shock.

Kevin Grand
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:31pm

Let me break down so that even you can comprehend, Bones.

The democrats ARE NOT pushing environmentalism because they believe in it. They use that in order to fool the rubes and simpletons so that they'll vote democrat on election day.

The democrats are pushing it because they want to create yet another avenue for them to expand their control over the lives of everyday Americans. And in case your reading comprehension skills are off this morning, that's literally what AOC's CoS just confessed to in the above quote from WaPo.

That being said, I still cannot think of one government planned economy which was ever successful.

Perhaps you can cite several examples for everyone here?

Bones
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 4:15pm

Let me break down so that even you can comprehend, Kevin.

You're a paranoid lunatic defending the capitalist system that is destroying the environment and treats billions of humans as expendable consumers and producers for the benefit of a vanishingly small class of people. The point of the GND is make sure we live see the end of a centruy not marked by the climate genocide that I already know you would whole-heatedly support. You complain about government interference, but you're fine with unaccountable corporations stealing our wages and polluting our environment. You're just another brainwashed simp licking the boot of your corporate overlords while mewling about any threat to the status quo

Carl
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 8:39am

Until consumers actually want electric vehicles, this is dead in the water. Despite incentives, as the story notes, sales of electric cars have not taken off. Once the market brings down prices and the benefits are obvious and consumers elect these vehicles over gas cars, these plans are just pipe dreams.

Lee
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 9:17am

Electric vehicles are an inevitability, but as a out state resident, I can say that the range and availability of charging stations has got to improve. I fairly frequently drive 250+ miles from northern Michigan to the Ann Arbor area and this is on the edge of current vehicles range. Also I personally don't know where any charging stations are. I know I could easily find out. My compromise is to drive a hybrid.

American car manufacturers know all of this and if they don't successfully respond, it will be because of bad execution not politics.

Doug L
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 9:21am

We do not have the electric supply infrastructure to charge all these electric cars that the democrats want. This will become a huge issue if people actually start buying electrics in large numbers. Another huge, unaddressed issue, is how do we pay for roads once there is little income from gasoline taxes?

JeremyK
Tue, 02/25/2020 - 8:57am

Michgan EV owners pay an extra $135/year, which is supposedly "indexed" to the gas tax. However, this is a pretty unfair considering that it is a flat tax and not proportional to the amount of miles driven. An efficient gas car driving 12,000 miles per year might only contribute $60/year in gas taxes. So, the "issue" has been addressed. If you really cared about the roads, then the issue you should be worried about is overweight trucks. It's not passenger cars destroying our roads.

As far as electric supply and infrastructure. We absolutely have enough supply and the infrastructure is adequate for the near term. Consider that most EVs charge at night, when there is a massive surplus in supply. For that very reason, electricity rates are only about $0.04/kWh (at night) vs. the national average of $0.12/kWh. So, charging an EV while your sleeping costs next to nothing and puts little/no strain on the grid. Electric companies have already done the math and will have plenty of time to react should they need to make additional investments in infrastructure, and they are more than happy to do so because selling electricity is kinda their job.

D. C. Walking
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:09am

Transition to a sustainable energy economy will, no doubt, be painful. But what Republicans and the Bridge gloss over, is that the transition is unavoidable. Scientists tell us we can do it within the next decade or so and avoid the worst disruptive effects of climate change, or dither and suffer the existential consequences. In the end, preserving “freedom to choose” internal combustion engined vehicles is not free. It amounts to a subsidy that will increasingly be paid by the entire world through climate disruption.

Bones
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:52am

At least somebody here recognizes the externalities that the GND is trying to address and the astronomical cost of doing nothing

James Brotherton
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:10pm

That's a pretty callous statement. Has it ever dawned on you that not everybody can afford to go out and by a brand new vehicle, let alone one that is $30,000 or more? I guess if you can afford to live in DC, you don't have to worry about those who are less fortunate.

Bones
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 4:16pm

You're absolutely right James. That's why we need to invest in green public transportation and efficiently-planned urban redevelooment that will move the cost burden from the individual to the collective

Marjie Darling
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:35am

Please add this to your list of facts before endorsing the 'electrification' :
1. TESLA has a plant in China. Our tax dollars have provided incentives for Tesla research. Our tax dollars have given $7000 for each vehicle purchased to the new owners of these cars. "The factory will give Tesla access to China, which is the world's biggest car market. It would also help the company AVOID higher import tariffs that are imposed on cars made in the US. "
2. TESLA is now building another plant in Germany.
WHAT? How is that helping the U.S. when our automotive workers and Michigan have to deal with re-education, etc. as outlined in the article. AND WHY are we funding anything more, including all those charging stations? p.s. WHY do I have to pay for charging those cars ... please WHY...
3. Our Power Company, located in Norther Indiana and a corner of SW Michigan is charging EACH MICHIGAN CUSTOMER $24 a month MORE as of Feb. 1st. WE were notified of this mandate, this command, on Feb. 5th by mail (and without any phone # nor e-mail addy to respond to it). THINK of the cost per year. THEN know the part of each Twenty Four Dollars per month will be used to " INCENTIVIZE utilization of electric vehicles"..... Wothellmehitabel!!

3.

Bek
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 11:32am

This article and comments present views on the drawbacks and benefits of Gasoline versus Electric powered vehicles with no mention of the development of mass transit as an alternative to both.
The manufacture and operation of Electric personal vehicles is not free from means of environmental degradation. There is no tailpipe emission which is a direct positive outcome over the Gasoline powered, but how much degradation results from the production of batteries and electricity to fuel Electric units?
As far as personal tastes and desires of the motoring public I have read articles that contend the upcoming generation is not nearly as enamored by owning and operating a personal car as the those who now find it “ necessary “ to live out a fantasy created by Automobile advertising.
Let’s talk more about the benefits of moving about together and less about individual transportation.

Anna
Mon, 02/24/2020 - 11:01am

Mass transit will work to reduce the need for vehicles in fairly dense cities and suburbs. But there is no conceivable mass transit system that will eliminate the need for at least 1 vehicle per family unit in the exurbs and rural communities where half or more of our nation's population live and work. Providing more widespread, multi-modal, mass transit will certainly help reduce fossil fuel use, but it is not the whole answer. Nor, given recent New York, San Francisco, and Boston experiences, can adequate mass transit systems be designed, bid, and built within Bernie Sandeer's proposed timeframe for total elimination of fossil fuel usage.

Arnold
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:02pm

Once again we find the risk averse attitude that has left Michigan behind still prevalent. The biggest mistake our leaders made in the past was opposing raising gas mileage requirements. Why... because it stifled innovation! Many of the issues raised here regarding impact, especially as it concerns worker retraining, will indeed need to be addressed, but if we don't get with the way the rest of the world is going, we will continue to suffer the consequences.

Jay
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 10:53pm

Yes! We shouldn't be so focused on the 2030 "end of combustion engines" and get with the times. Forecasts for EV sales are up and Michigan companies like Rivian, won't even be able to sell them because of archaic policies that force the likes of Tesla to have customers take delivery in Ohio before retitling in Michigan.

Want better infrastructure? Voters overwhelmingly supported a 1% sales tax increase the was dedicated to road construction, then politicians tried to get their own projects tacked on to that fund and the bill died.

The auto unions would be best served by showing government how great they are at innovating rather than letting government dictate how that innovation should take place. Union heads would rather maintain the status quo than move forward.

Al Warner
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 12:42pm

The problem for ALL of US is there is too much CO2 in the air. Our atmosphere is over 400 ppm CO2 after not exceeding 280 ppm for 800,000 years. Consequent global warming is enhancing our weather events and their related disaster costs. These events will continue to happen for decades to come even if all CO2 sources were eliminated tomorrow. So why are you complaining about a marginally higher electric bill or providing incentives for the removal of CO2 sources from transportation and electricity production. We must change!

Jeff Green
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 1:45pm

This kind of time was coming from the really sluggish change into the necessary future we need. There needs to be a great deal of assisstance to workers and corporations to work our way out of our ghg hole we have dug for ourselves. I wish it didn't have to be this way, but it is also the price of denial of reallity.

EB
Fri, 02/21/2020 - 5:05pm

Lakes Michigan/Huron are over 5.5 ft. higher than this date in 2014 and are predicted to keep rising. How high before the cycle changes? Another 5.5 ft. rise in the next 6 years?

Government promotion of electric car sales may be the least of Michigan automobile manufacturers' problems, if their factories are under water.

Global warming is an existential threat and electrifying transportation is but once piece of the puzzle to combat this threat.

An electric F-150, now there's something to think about. If it has the power to pull my boat and I can readily get it recharged, sign me up!

Gary Lea
Sun, 02/23/2020 - 7:32am

Campaign rhetoric does not constitute a "hard push" for electric vehicles. To me, much of this article presents legacy carmakers' viewpoints which do not address climate change. Michigan's manufacturing history hasn't made its roadways among the best in the United States and reducing climate science to political matters seems very much like the obfuscation tactics employed by big tobacco.
https://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/michigans-auto-industry-matt...

Paul Jordan
Sun, 02/23/2020 - 9:22am

Climate change is here. The science behind it has been known since the 1890s.
Anyone who lives hear the coasts of Lake Huron or Lake Michigan should know by now that the climate is, indeed, changing. Droughts in Central America and sub Saharan Africa have created social chaos there, and have resulted in millions of desperate people fleeing north to safety. Past notions of normality no longer apply. The 'predictable' is no longer predictable.
Human beings are--along with coyotes, cockroaches, rats, and crows--extremely adaptable. I believe that humans as a species will adapt to whatever the new climate will deliver us. The problem is, though, that the adaptation will impose great distress, and no matter where we live it will negatively effect us. Our society is complicated and interdependent, and the effects of climate change will greatly disrupt it in unpredictable ways unless we reduce that climate change! A global economy that can now provide food for seven billion people will no longer be able to do so, and billions of people may die as a result. And they will not go quietly...
Whatever disruption to the economy results from the Green New Deal will be far less than the disruption that unchecked climate change has begun to cause.
Our only hope of exercising some control over this situation is through forcing government to impose strict new conditions on all of us that force us to reduce the release of green house gases, and that help us adapt to the resulting changes. Through that process, we can exercise some degree of control over an inescapable process that otherwise will control us and the many generations that (we hope) will come after us.
We, our society, our governments, and our economy will use our innate creativity to adapt to the new conditions resulting from the Green New Deal. There is no reason to believe that our society and economy will survive in any recognizable way unless government takes strong action now.

David Wolf
Sun, 02/23/2020 - 12:00pm

America, and the rest of the world, are currently locked in a suicide pact with the fossil-fuel industry on behalf of future generations. The macabre crowd cheering for us all to leap off the cliff includes major industries and labor unions who simply can’t imagine doing anything other than what we have done for a century – build bigger, more-ostentatious vehicles that burn more fossil fuels. The only winners in that equation are the titans of those industries and their shareholders. And those winners are not playing a long game, grabbing up gross (in its pejorative senses) profits as quickly as they can, with no concern for future consequences.
America and the world need the equivalent of a “moon-shot” program to move forward with electric vehicles, eliminating or massively reducing our dependence on burning stuff. That moon shot would, like America’s space program did, spin off huge technological benefits to all sectors of industry. The “huge retooling costs for automakers” that are feared to “displace thousands of workers who build … internal combustion engines” would necessarily create vast opportunities for new jobs in research and development, engineering, design, and production. But that will only provide maximum benefits if we cast aside our internecine battles and fully commit to moving toward a fossil-fuel-free future.
History has shown that if people don’t have ambitious goals to reach, complacency and lethargy are likely to result. Placing the goalposts aggressively, and creating a structure to work hard toward reaching them, is the most hopeful way to achieve the result that humanity needs.
Major government investments in research and development, worker retraining programs, charging stations and consumer subsidies would help bridge the gap between the old and new technologies. These programs would improve the outcomes and soften the economic impacts of the changes. Tax credits for consumers who purchase electric vehicles and those who invest in infrastructure to recharge those vehicles would further promote the program’s success.
Michigan may be “an island in a national political context” but it could easily be left in the dust by other states or nations that embrace what is critical for the ultimate survival of our species. The fact that union leaders express fear that electrification could result in fewer jobs and lower pay creates a Faustian bargain. Do they work toward pocketing a fast buck, or survival (and future jobs) of their own progeny? Apparently even the UAW sees “an opportunity to reinvest in U.S. manufacturing,” recognizing that “[t]his opportunity will be lost if [electric vehicles] or their components are imported or made by low-road suppliers who underpay workers.”
This opportunity will only be capitalized upon if labor, industry, government, and the public come together to work in concert to achieve a brighter future. Imagine a new industrial revolution where completely new technologies, materials and processes are conceived, developed and produced here in America. We would all benefit from that, plus those advancements could easily be exportable to other nations that need them – but only if they are truly superior quality.
It is up to us, America. Are we able to roll up our proverbial sleeves and be world leaders again?

Matt
Mon, 02/24/2020 - 9:03pm

Strangely David the only owners of car companies I notice becoming rich here are … in un-unionized Tesla.

Bones
Wed, 02/26/2020 - 10:25am

What's that? Owners who crush union organization in their companies can steak more from their workers? What a shock?

JeremyK
Tue, 02/25/2020 - 8:40am

I think the headline should read "Democrats’ hard push for electric vehicles would Future-Proof the Michigan economy"
Look at where the auto companies are currently investing their money. If anything, Michigan should be embracing EVs and trying to increase consumer acceptance. Instead, we impose a disproportionate tax on EV registrations and have very little show with regard to infrastructure investment. Michigan should be leading the way; afterall we design and build them right here in our state!
Ask any current EV owner if they will ever purchase another internal combustion vehicle again (hint, the answer is a resounding no). We need to get past the idea of EV's being only for tree-huggers; Better performance, less noise, and considerably lower maintenance and operational costs are just a few reasons why EVs will eventually start to make inroads with consumers.
I'm not saying that we need to be 100% EV by 2035, but it is certainly the direction of the industry. What IS going to upend the MI economy, is if we concede auto manufacturing expertise to states like California. Not only will we lose the manufacturing jobs, but all the tiered suppliers and engineers supporting the auto industry as well.

LH
Tue, 02/25/2020 - 11:46pm

I'm not a climate change denier, but neither am I in "the sky is falling" category. But I like to think that I look at the bigger picture, something that I do not see reflected in most comments here. Manufacturing all these new vehicles requires inputs of energy to fuel the manufacturing process, which often is generated using fossil fuels. Manufacturing also requires inputs of raw materials, which have to be mined, thus creating environmental impacts on the areas where these raw materials are found, and further inputs of energy. Plastic components need to be manufactured, often using petroleum products. Oh, and the electricity to recharge those electric cars? It may come from fossil fuels, nuclear, hydro power, wind, solar, etc., all of which have at least some environmental impact.

And what do we do with all the cars which are powered by internal combustion engines? Either people are allowed to drive them until they reach the end of their useful life and are then replaced with an electric vehicle, or there is some sort of buyback program. If there's a buyback, who pays for it? How are all these "obsolete" vehicles going to be disposed of? Who's going to pay to close and clean up all those gas stations we no longer need? Are there issues with disposing of spent batteries from electric vehicles? It's easy to forget how inter-connected our world is, and how the solution to one problem often causes another problem. The law of unintended consequences is a very real thing.

From a more personal standpoint, the technology of electric vehicles is going to have to improve in order to make these vehicles usable by everyone. Either that, or many of us are going to have to make some major lifestyle changes. That's not always a bad thing, but it can be difficult. When we travel to visit family in Ohio, it's a 10-hour drive of nearly 600 miles. We do it in one day, stopping only for gas and maybe a visit to Cabela's in Dundee. Are we going to have to add hours to our trip to re-charge our vehicle? If we're camped at a rustic site (outhouse and fire ring only) for 6 days, are we going to be able to get there, drive around to fishing or hunting spots, then drive home again pulling a camper, without charging our truck? If we do end up with a discharged battery in the middle of nowhere, are there going to be portable charging stations that can be brought to where we are to get us going again?

Here's another angle. I would submit that in some ways my 41-year-old classic car is more environmentally friendly than most vehicles in a big-picture sense. It's not as fuel efficient as many new cars, but 41 years has passed without any more metals having to be mined to replace it, no energy being expended to build a replacement car, no fumes created from the painting of a replacement vehicle, no plastics being manufactured for a new car interior, and so on. As a bonus, it's a blast to drive, and when I look under the hood, I can actually see what's under there!

Adam
Wed, 02/26/2020 - 8:25am

Funny how the auto industry doesn't mind getting bailed out by the government instead of letting market forces unfold. The industry doesn't have any problems re-tooling when they move from an unprofitable model to a new one. they don't worry about the impact on the Sates economy when they close plants and go out of the country but going electric is a disastrous thing. Market forces will play a role when the electric cars start coming in from Asia and then the US Auto Industry will want the Government to intervene.