Newsletter: 2nd MPSC EV Technical Conference; Americans are Excited for Electric Cars

This mobility newsletter was originally published on February 23, 2018.

2nd EV Technical Conference Brings Utilities, Industry Advocates

On Tuesday, February 20, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) hosted its second technical conference, moderated by the Center for Automotive Research (CAR), on industry trends and policy drivers surrounding the adoption of electric and autonomous vehicles.

Brett Smith and Valerie Sathe Brugeman from CAR set the framework for the discussion by emphasizing the rapid growth of EV sales and the need for Michigan to act to ensure it remains competitive in this industry explosion. CAR shared internal reporting stating that the 9 ZEV states account for 28% of new car registrations and EV sales have increased from 2016-2017 11.7% Comparably, a report from Greentech Media says that EV sales grew 21% nationwide last year.

Sarah Barbo of Consumers Energy gave an overview of the utility’s pilot programs, including a residential charging program that gives rebates to customers, a public/workplace charging program and building the market around site hosts to raise awareness, a DC fast charge program at 20-25 locations with 10 chargers per location, and an IT infrastructure program working with 3rd-party collaborators.

Michelle Bates of DTE Energy gave the overview of DTE’s pilot programs, including a website re-rollout, dealer workshops for the 10 highest-grossing dealers, load management, demand response, downtown showcases, and DC fast charging.

Michigan EIBC President Liesl Eichler Clark spoke as well, underscoring the connection between connected, shared, autonomous and electrified vehicles and explaining that the future of mobility will happen predominately on an electrified platform. 

Michigan EIBC has been exploring those themes over the last year including working with the American Center for Mobility, Council on Future Mobility, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, Michigan Department of Transportation, Department of Energy, and more. Michigan EIBC’s “Powering Mobility” conference last fall was well attended and sparked good discussions, demonstrating the interest in this issue among Michigan EIBC’s membership and the organizations we collaborate with. The conference also informed the publication of the Institute for Energy Innovation’s report, Powering the Mobility Revolution: The Case for Integrating Vehicle Electrification & Batteries into Strategies to Promote Autonomous Vehicles.

In November, in response to the open docket at the MPSC, Michigan EIBC worked with a diverse group of stakeholders to submit joint comments after the 1st technical conference. Michigan EIBC’s comments had 19 signers, ranging from business groups to environmental groups, from automakers to utilities. The guiding principles of those comments were:

  • Transportation electrification is in the public interest
  • Transportation electrification in Michigan is lagging and barriers need to be addressed
  • Electric companies are uniquely suited to help

Michigan EIBC recommended that utility pilots should consider the economic rationale for utility involvement, as well as smart charging and rate design, customer awareness and education, and PEV infrastructure deployment.

Since the first technical conference, Michigan EIBC has been convening stakeholders, the utilities, and many others to provide feedback on the pilot programs and begin to examine some of the more complicated issues. The first EV Convening in January focused on pilot programs and Volkswagen settlement opportunities. The next meeting on March 22 will focus on issues of customer awareness, and future meetings will dive deep on DC fast charging, long-dwell charging, and fleets.

Michigan EIBC believes that it is critical that we start to move forward on all fronts – pilot programs, rate cases, and VW settlement funding. There are a lot of opportunities, but there is still a lot to learn. To maintain Michigan as the automobile capital and enhance our economic development, we need to move toward the automated/electrified transportation future.

Survey: More than Half of Americans are Excited for Electric Cars, but Wary of Autonomous Cars

A new survey conducted by Morning Consult explores consumer receptivity to auto industry innovations, including vehicle electrification and autonomy.

According to the survey, over half of Americans believe a future of fully-electric vehicles would be exciting.

However, respondents were shakier on vehicle automation: 58% did not trust self-driving cars, but say their opinions could change as the technology evolves. 45% did not believe autonomous vehicles will ever fully replace human drivers.

This survey comes as states and companies across the country are working to move the industry in a new direction, with big auto manufacturers committing to all-electric vehicle lines in the near future, and states implementing new policies to promote electric vehicles. On the front of vehicle automation, automakers are racing to develop driverless cars, and numerous states have introduced legislation allowing for testing and development of autonomous vehicles. For an overview of electric and autonomous vehicle progress focused on Michigan, and a slate of policy recommendations, see the Institute for Energy Innovation’s Powering the Mobility Revolution report here.


Tesla Wants to Sell its Cars Directly to Customers

Tesla is ramping up efforts to convince states to allow the automaker to sell its cars directly to consumers, bypassing the requirement many states have that cars must be sold by dealers rather than directly by manufacturers.

Here’s an overview of what Tesla is fighting for and where:

New York: Tesla can sell cars in New York at no more than 5 “dealership” stores. The company is pushing for legislation to increase the limit to 20 stores. 

Connecticut: Connecticut completely prohibits automaker-owned operations. It goes so far as to not allow Tesla buyers to take delivery in the state. Tesla is trying to push legislation to allow direct sales in Connecticut for the fourth year in a row.

Utah: Utah’s policies created some confusion for the automaker. Tesla thought that it could operate in the state, so it built a $3 million store in Salt Lake City in 2015, but the full-fledged store was demoted to a gallery/service center two weeks before its grand opening due to a ruling from the Utah attorney general’s office that it was against the state’s direct sales law. Tesla has since obtained a used car dealer license and they have sued the state for the right to sell, but the company lost its direct sales lawsuit in the Utah Supreme court in 2017. The company is now trying to change the law with a new bill, H.B. 369.

New Mexico: Tesla has requested support for a new bill that would allow the company to sell its cars in the state of New Mexico for the first time earlier this week.

Oklahoma: Tesla is asking for support for SB1560 introduced in the Oklahoma state legislature to allow the company to sell its cars for the first time.

Wisconsin: Tesla has pushed a bill in Wisconsin to allow the automaker to sell its cars in the state. The bill was debated in subcommittee last month and faces strong opposition from dealerships in the state.

Texas: Tesla has been consistently trying to push legislation in Texas as well, but hasn’t seen any success. 

Michigan: Instead of going through the legislature, Tesla is currently suing the state of Michigan for the right to sell its cars. It’s expected to be a long legal battle with no end in sight.

Changes in any state policies could influence sales of EVs in these states, as well as influence which EVs consumers are buying.


Mobility Newsclips

In Michigan
  • Britta Gross, director of General Motors’ advanced vehicle commercialization, told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that the auto industry needs lawmakers’ help in expanding the electric vehicle market by facilitating the construction of charging stations across the country.
  • Meanwhile, a Forbes writer says you could “almost feel the ambivalence” from major automakers at this year’s Auto Show in Detroit toward investing in electric vehicles while also promoting gasoline-powered pickup trucks.
  • Michigan’s two major utilities are working with large automakers to develop electric vehicle pilot programs.
  • A Crain’s ‘Detroit Rising’ podcast emphasized electric vehicle charging as an emerging infrastructure hurdle for automakers and utility companies.
  • On Tuesday, the Michigan Public Service Commission brought together utilities, automakers, private companies, and other interested parties to help design programs that lead to greater electric vehicle adoption.
  • A Wards Auto article asks if autonomous vehicles are “a lighter shade of green.”
Across the Country
  • Colorado’s governor unveiled a plan to grow the state’s electric vehicle market that includes ramping up EV charging infrastructure and updating road signage so drivers know where fast-charging stations are located.
  • A Minneapolis rental company will have Teslas available at the Mall of America to rent or test drive leading up to the Super Bowl.
  • Tesla considers investing in a lithium processing plant in Chile as demand for the battery ingredient soars.
  • Tesla will collaborate with Anheuser-Busch, PepsiCo and UPS to build on-site charging terminals in preparation for its new electric truck.
  • Tesla CEO Elon Musk says the company expects to manufacture as many as 100,000 electric semi-trucks per year, with production starting as early as 2019.
  • Tesla posted a fourth-quarter loss of $675.4 million, its largest quarterly loss to date, after delaying production of its Model 3 electric sedan due to high costs.
  • Alibaba and Foxconn are leading a $350 million electric vehicle startup.
  • Volvo Trucks, one of the world’s largest makers of heavy commercial vehicles, plans to offer electric trucks to some customers this year as part of a pilot program before starting a wider sales push in Europe in 2019.
  • Harley Davidson will release silent electric motorcycles.
  • Porsche will double its investment in hybrids and EVs by 2022 to more than 6 billion euros, or $7.43 billion US dollars.
  • Visitors had the opportunity to test drive EVs at the Chicago Auto Show for the first time. 


Events to Watch:

You’re invited to the EV Roadmap 11, June 19-20 in Portland, Oregon. The Roadmap Conference is the nation’s largest and most advanced annual conference on electric and smart mobility. Held each summer in the Pacific Northwest, Roadmap includes nearly 100 national and international speakers, dozens of exhibits, regional smart mobility tours, and high-energy interactive sessions. Expect to make connections with a diverse mix of key leaders in the industry, government, and utilities. Register here.

On July 17-19, PlugVolt will be hosting its next Battery Seminar in Plymouth, Michigan (USA), featuring an entire day of in-depth training by EnerDelon Lithium Ion technology, alongside complementary industry updates by automotive and grid storage OEMs, global battery manufacturers and Tier 1 suppliers. Attendees also get a tour of Intertek’s Battery Testing Center. Register here.