Communities as a Driving Force for Advanced Mobility

This article, written by Michigan EIBC president Liesl Eichler Clark, was published in the July/August 2018 issue of The Review, the official magazine of the Michigan Municipal League. View the original article on page 16 of the issue here.

With the pace of technological innovation accelerating, mobility is changing rapidly. Transportation is becoming more connected, more autonomous, and more shared, particularly in urban environments. Electrification is the enabler of this transformation, facilitating this combination of automation, advanced computing, and sharing in the way we get around. That makes electric vehicles (EVs) more than an alternative to gasoline-propelled cars. It makes them the platform for the next phase of human mobility.

Michigan is aggressively positioning itself to lead in the global mobility ecosystem through the development and deployment of connected, autonomous, and electrified vehicles (EVs). EVs provide a long list of benefits to drivers, rate payers, and communities alike. Some of the ways everyone comes out ahead include reduced costs in fuel and maintenance, increased energy independence, downward pressure on overall electricity rates, reduced air pollution, and job creation. Lifetime costs for EVs when compared to internal combustion engines (ICEs) are already lower, and upfront purchase prices continue to decline as battery costs drop.

EVs are the enabler of the automated, shared mobility future. As such, EVs are expected to play a dominant role in the global industry by 2030. Although hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs) now represent only 2 percent of U.S. sales and EVs represent only 1.07 percent,

By 2030 Ford expects HEVs to represent 30 percent of the market, plug-in electric vehicles/battery electric vehicles (PHEVs/BEVs) to represent 30 percent of the market, and traditional internal combustion engines to represent the remaining portion of the market. Michigan has already taken key steps to encourage and enable our mobility future through policy and market support. Electric utilities and their regulators play a role in Michigan’s mobility future. If integrated correctly, EVs can provide increased demand when excess electricity is available on the grid, helping to decrease peak demand and smooth out the load on the grid.

The Municipal Engine

The Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council has been convening stakeholders— including utilities, automakers, EV market suppliers, advanced energy companies, environmental groups, community advocates, and others—to discuss harnessing the momentum to effectively deploy EV infrastructure and improve customer awareness and education across Michigan.

Municipalities are a critical player in this transition. Community planning and zoning can be reframed to proactively prepare for increased EV deployment and to enable EV charging. Municipalities can adopt ordinances to require that commercial buildings, parking structures, and multi-unit dwellings are constructed ready for the installation of EV charging equipment. This also provides the opportunity to create additional value and cost savings by integrating solar energy and battery storage with EV charging stations. Municipalities can also institute regulations for retrofitting existing buildings that establish clear requirements to enable the future installation of EV charging stations. Municipalities are also an important player in consumer education. Michigan’s automakers are producing EVs, but there is a lack of understanding or awareness about EVs among Michigan consumers. Municipalities can provide educational opportunities with public signage and charging stations, online materials, and targeted advertising campaigns. Setting ambitious EV goals and policies can spur excitement and interest in EVs from residents.

Finally, municipalities can lead by example by purchasing EVs for city fleets and electrifying city transit buses. By incorporating more EVs into fleets, cities save money over the life of the vehicle, reduce local air pollution, and demonstrate to their constituents that EVs are a viable transportation option.

Municipalities Paving the Way for EVs

  • Instituting ordinances and building codes to support EVs in Auburn Hills, Michigan: In July of 2011, Auburn Hills became the first Michigan municipality to adopt a comprehensive Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Ordinance.
  • St. Paul, Minnesota: St. Paul adopted a Sustainable Building Policy that requires all new building projects receiving more than $200,000 in public assistance to meet an approved sustainable building rating system, including requirements for EV charging.
  • Installing public EV charging stations in Ann Arbor, Michigan: The Ann Arbor Downtown Development Authority has installed 23 free public EV charging stations and as of January 2018, the chargers have delivered enough electricity to displace more than 1 million miles of gasoline-fueled travel.
  • Developing partnerships to promote EVs in Auburn Hills, Michigan: Auburn Hills partnered with the Department of Energy on the Workplace Charging Initiative. The city has been highlighted by the DOE as a success story and model for other municipalities across the nation to follow.
  • Updating municipal fleet purchasing policies in St. Paul, Minnesota: In 2017, the State of Minnesota added 22 plug-in electric vehicles to its fleet. The Office of Enterprise Sustainability worked with General Motors to negotiate the purchase price of the vehicles. The state also has 240 electric hybrids in its fleet.
  • Developing EV shared vehicle programs in Indianapolis: In 2013, Indianapolis became the site for the largest electric vehicle car share program in the U.S. (“Blue Indy”). The system will eventually feature more than 200 public charging locations across the city and offers customers the ability to rent and return electric vehicles at any available location.

For more information on electric and autonomous vehicles, visit the Michigan Energy Innovation Business Council’s website at