The Electric Future for Automakers

Eight auto manufacturers – Jaguar, General Motors, Volvo, Ford, Volkswagen, Mercedes Benz, Honda, and Audi – have made bold commitments to electrify the vehicles they sell. Across the automotive industry, companies are committing to the transition to electric powertrains – a move that will reduce emissions and provide customers with more choices in how they get around. From sports cars to pickup trucks to minivans, there will soon be an electric car option for everyone.

Leading the Transition

The timeline pictured above illustrates the strong commitments that companies are making to sell more electric vehicles over the coming years. Five companies – Volvo, Jaguar, GM, Mercedes-Benz, and Honda – are all expecting 100% of their vehicle sales to be electric by 2040 (Volvo and GM actually think it will be sooner!).

Not only are companies committing to switch to electric vehicles, but some are also committing to eliminating carbon emissions from their manufacturing, too. For example, GM will source renewable energy to power its U.S. sites by 2030 and all global sites by 2035. Audi, Jaguar, Ford, Volkswagen, Toyota, and Volvo also promise to be carbon neutral in their manufacturing by 2050.

Why the Transition?

While the switch to producing only electric vehicles in renewable-powered facilities will certainly benefit the environment, companies are making the bet to go electric now because it gives them a competitive advantage. The cost to produce batteries is going down, which brings down the cost to manufacture electric vehicles. This means that “price parity” – when the cost of an electric vehicle will equal the cost of an equivalent combustion engine vehicle – is within reach. GM executive Dane Parker justified the company’s decision to go all-in on the future of electric vehicles in his comment: “the decision… was based on a fundamental, dollars-and-cents analysis of where the auto industry is headed and the cars that [GM] expects to become best sellers in the future.”

Looking to the Future

The question is no longer whether electric vehicles are here to stay, but how fast will they become the predominant passenger vehicle. The transition to electric vehicles is underway, and it has many long-term implications for Michiganders. To be adequately prepared, we will need a developed network for charging infrastructure so that consumers can easily recharge their vehicles, a developed supply chain for electric car components and batteries, and continued investments in our Michigan know-how so that we are leaders in the development, manufacturing, and distribution of electric cars. It’s time to buckle up, we’re on the way to the electric future!

Funding Opportunity: Fuel Transformation Program

$16 million is available for medium- and heavy-duty vehicle projects that replace diesel vehicles with electric, hydrogen fuel cell, or diesel-electric hybrid vehicles. The funding is available through the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy (EGLE)’s Fuel Transformation Program.

The Fuel Transformation Program is funded by the 2017 national settlement with Volkswagen. Michigan was awarded $64.8 million through the settlement to be spent on projects that reduce NOx emissions in the state. The goals for this funding are to maximize air quality benefits statewide, including a focus on urban areas and areas designated as non-attainment with the National Ambient Air Quality Standards.

EGLE will accept project proposals through August 20, 2021. This round of funding is focused on on-road vehicles, including medium- and heavy-duty trucks, port drayage vehicles, shuttle buses, and transit buses. Preference will be given to all-electric vehicles and charging equipment can be included in the project cost.

EGLE will be hosting an informational webinar at 1 pm on Tuesday, July 13th to answer questions from potential applicants.

This is an excellent opportunity for Michigan businesses and local governments to swap out old and polluting diesel vehicles for electric, hybrid, or hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. For more information and to apply, visit EGLE’s website.

Legislative Update: Electric Vehicle Charging Station Bills

A package of five bills related to electric vehicle charging stations was taken up by the House Energy Committee on Tuesday, June 8th, 2021. House Bills 4801 and 4802 would create a requirement for people operating electric vehicle charging stations to register with the state and set in law that electric vehicle charging stations are not classified as a public utility and thus could financially charge consumers by the unit of electricity consumed. House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 would create the legal framework to allow electric vehicle charging at rest areas in Michigan. Currently, federal and Michigan law prohibits commercial entities from highway rest areas.

Update as of June 22, 2021: House Bills 4801 and 4802 passed the House Energy Committee. Next, the House of Representatives will vote on the bills, likely after the summer recess ends in September.

Clean Fuels Michigan Executive Director Jane McCurry testified before the committee to show support for the advancement of electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Her full testimony is below:


Testimony before the House Energy Committee: House Bills 4801, 4802, 4803, 4804, 4805

Chair Bellino and committee members, thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today. My name is Jane McCurry, and I am the Executive Director of Clean Fuels Michigan.

Clean Fuels Michigan is a nonprofit trade organization advancing the future of clean transportation in Michigan. We advocate for policies and programs that support the transition to cleaner and zero-emission fuels.

We appreciate the leadership of Representatives Schroeder, Kuppa, Bellino, LaGrand, and Damoose, in addition to all the other bill sponsors and committee members. We are pleased to support smart and timely policies to prepare Michigan’s charging infrastructure to meet the needs of consumers and the electric vehicle industry.

Clean Fuels Michigan has particular interest in House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 related to rest area electric vehicle charging, so I will focus my testimony on those three bills, of which we are excitedly supportive.

Clean Fuels Michigan Supports House Bills 4803, 4804, 4805

Consumers and fleets have more options than ever before to purchase an electric vehicle that fits their needs. Every major auto manufacturer, including many with headquarters and facilities right here in Michigan, is pledging billions of dollars to develop, market, and manufacture compelling electric vehicles. However, electric vehicles made up only 0.82% of new light-duty vehicle sales in Michigan in 2020.

Electric vehicle drivers primarily recharge their vehicles at home, overnight. However, on longer trips that exceed the range of the vehicle, fast and convenient recharging infrastructure is needed. In fact, the lack of public charging infrastructure is an often-cited reason for consumers to choose not to drive an electric vehicle.

The buildout of fast and convenient electric vehicle charging stations is necessary to allow Michiganders and Michigan’s many visitors to get wherever they please in an electric vehicle with confidence. And equally as important, policies to promote electric vehicles and adequate charging infrastructure show that Michigan is serious about continuing to be the home of the automotive industry.

Automakers and other experts also tell us that the infrastructure deployment must begin now, while electric vehicle adoption is relatively low. In part, this is because many prospective buyers need to see chargers in action to give them the confidence to purchase an electric vehicle. But more simply: planning, permitting, and construction of electric vehicle chargers takes time, and chargers need to be installed and ready to meet the increased demand that we expect over the next few years.

House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 give Michigan another tool in the toolbelt of electric vehicle recharging. Rest areas and welcome centers are close to the highway and could offer electric vehicle drivers a convenient place to recharge, use the facilities, and continue on their way. We see no reason to leave creative and compelling options, like this one, behind.

Michigan should be a national leader in clean transportation.

House Bills 4803, 4804, and 4805 offer Michigan the opportunity to lead and be one of the first states to enact policies to allow electric vehicle charging at rest areas. Conversations about using the highway right of way for renewable energy and alternative fuel vehicle refueling are ongoing, and we are excited to see Michigan emerge as a leader in that conversation. We encourage the bill sponsors to continue to work with MDOT and FHWA to stay up to date on any federal guidance regarding electric vehicle charging and use of the highway rights of way.

We look forward to building on this conversation to support electric vehicle drivers and fleets in many more ways. Michigan has the know-how, the skills, and the stakeholders to make the next generation of transportation innovation our legacy – one that is cleaner, more equitable, and beneficial for all residents. We are excited to work with you on these bills and additional opportunities to advance Michigan’s clean transportation leadership.

Yellow School Buses Going Green

For decades the bright yellow school bus with its recognizable smell of exhaust has brought children to and from school. With new innovation in the clean vehicles market, there are realistic options to improve this aspect of the American school system. Electric and propane school buses benefit the children riding them, the bottom line of the bus operators, and the community.

Diesel School Buses Pose a Risk for Children’s Health and Wellbeing

Children are a vulnerable population and rely on stages in their development where they are particularly sensitive to environmental stimuli. The pollution from diesel exhaust – particulate matter (PM), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), hydrocarbons (HC), and hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) – contribute to air pollution and can cause heart and respiratory illnesses, along with a range of other health effects. According to a pediatric study, exposure to adverse conditions before children are completely matured can result in damaged health at the time of exposure and into the future. Kindra Weid of

The exhaust from diesel school buses is not only a health and environmental problem but a social one. A Georgia State University study found that children who were exposed to diesel fumes on school buses scored worse on their standardized tests than children that rode cleaner upgraded school buses with exhaust scrubbing systems. Exposure to emissions has also been linked to absenteeism and loss of learning.

The good news: electric and propane school buses offer a cleaner, healthier ride for students and the community. Propane autogas-fueled buses are 75% cleaner than federal emission standards and reduce nitrogen oxides by 96%. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, exposure to nitrogen oxide is the leading cause of asthma, especially for children.  Likewise, electric school buses reduce emissions by 95%.

Alternative fuel school buses are cheaper to operate

Electric and propane buses have financial benefits also. For example, electric school buses offer substantially reduced maintenance and fuel costs – there is no oil or engine air filter to change, no transmission maintenance, and electric buses do not use the brakes as much, meaning longer intervals between brake pad replacements.

The costs of fuel for electric vehicles are significantly reduced in comparison to diesel fuel, too. For example, the average Thomas Built Bus Saf-T-Liner C2 diesel school bus will cost approximately $4,328.70 to fuel for the year, according to 2019 data. In comparison, Blue Bird electric school buses have annual estimated charging costs of only $1,836.00 – a savings of $2,492 per school bus per year!

Similarly, propane autogas-fueled buses have financial benefits. Propane autogas costs about half of the price of diesel, so fuel costs are significantly reduced. Not to mention that families will save money by decreasing the risk of health problems related to pollution from diesel school buses.

Leaders in the Transition

There are school districts in Michigan leading the way in alternative fuel school buses. Ann Arbor, Gaylord, Kalamazoo, Oxford, Roseville, Three Rivers, and Zeeland school districts all have operational electric school buses. These school districts leveraged grant money from the Fuel Transformation Program issued by the Michigan Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy (EGLE), and their utility company, DTE Energy, to help finance the upfront cost of new electric school buses. Roseville Superintendent Mark Blaszkowski commented that through the buses’ daily routes, food delivery during the pandemic, and opportunity for students to observe technological advances, “these buses will help ensure we are serving the school community in whatever ways are needed.”

Livonia Public Schools have 22 propane autogas-fueled school buses in their fleet, also funded by the Fuel Transformation Program. Rick Martin, the fleet garage supervisor for Livonia Public Schools, said that “the school district saves money, our students get a safer bus and our community gets a cleaner environment.”

Cleaner School buses are a win-win-win

Michigan’s students deserve a safe and healthy ride to and from school. If your community or school district would like help evaluating the costs and benefits of alternative fuel school buses, please do not hesitate to reach out. PowerMIFleet, a program offered by Consumers Energy, is another resource that was created to help fleet owners and operators reduce operating costs and cut emissions while keeping the grid operating efficiently. You can visit their website to learn more and see if your organization meets the program requirements.

Cleaning up our school bus fleet benefits the students, fleet owners, and the community – because when our air is cleaner, we all win.

Image courtesy of Roush CleanTech.

General Motors signals big shift with EV fleet plans 

Michigan’s clean energy future was electrified with the news General Motors aims to transition to an all-electric light-duty truck and SUV fleet by 2035, Clean Fuels Michigan said today.

In effort to reach its goal, GM began a new campaign, “EVerybody in,” and debuted a Super Bowl advertisement where Will Ferrell says that Norway sells “way more” electric cars than the United States. In Norway, 60% of new cars sold are electric, compared to only 2% in the United States. 

General Motors is a member of Clean Fuels Michigan – a group of leading companies and organizations advancing the clean transportation industry in Michigan. 

“This is the first time a major legacy auto manufacturer has committed to phasing out gasoline vehicles entirely,” said Jane McCurry, executive director of Clean Fuels Michigan. “Consumers are demanding more electric vehicles because they are faster, quieter and cheaper to operate and offer a better driving experience. GM realizes that and is stepping up to the plate.” 

“GM’s announcement is an exciting step toward helping the state of Michigan reach its 2050 net zero goal,” said Benjamin Burns, director of marketing and electrification for DTE Energy.  

“The landscape is shifting toward cleaner, advanced vehicles, and GM’s announcement is yet another example of the shifting tailwinds,” said Charles Griffith, director of the climate & energy program for Ecology Center. “Transitioning to all-electric vehicles will help Michigan’s economy while cleaning our air and water and creating healthier communities.” 

Clean Fuels Michigan noted that like other technology, the transition to electric vehicles will happen fast. For example, in 1990, 2% of Americans had a cell phone while by 2010, more than 92% of people in the United States had a cell phone.

Plug In to the Perks of Fleet Electrification

This article was originally published in the Midwest Renewable Energy Association’s Rise Up Midwest Call to Action publication.

The transition to electric vehicles provides a significant opportunity to businesses that operate vehicle fleets. Electric cars are more efficient, less polluting, safer, and cheaper to operate than their gas counterparts. Consumers and organizations alike are starting to realize that these benefits are too large to be ignored any longer.

Fleets are making the switch, and for good reason. Not only does driving electric reduce a fleet’s emissions, it is also an excellent way to reduce operating expenses. Powering an electric vehicle can cost half as much as fueling a gas vehicle, and the savings add up quickly, especially when the cars drive a lot of miles. Plus, when fuel expenses are paid through the electricity bill, those expenses can be offset by investing in onsite solar.

Wygo is a grocery delivery service based in Troy, Michigan. They started operations in January 2018 and have 6 all-electric Chevy Bolts. When asked why he chose electric vehicles, founder Mike Theodore said, “Economically, EVs just make sense. It only costs $5 to go 300 miles, and there’s hardly any maintenance.” In addition to the fuel cost savings, electric cars have relatively few parts, which means they never need an oil change and require very little routine maintenance. Fewer repairs and less time spent in the shop means more productivity per vehicle. Theodore went on to say, “Many of the Wygo vehicles are coming up on 100,000 miles and I’ve only had to change the tires.” Theodore also mentioned that he appreciates the fact that his business is environmentally friendly. As a self-professed “car guy” and a businessman, Theodore says, “If I can be convinced to use an EV, anyone can be.”

Other companies are realizing the cost savings benefits of EVs, too. DTE Energy, an energy provider in Southeast Michigan, has electrified 8% of their fleet in order to reduce operating expenses. Emissions are important to DTE too, and Amy Joyce, Director of Fleet Operations, said that, “DTE has had EVs in its fleet for over a decade, and we will continue to electrify our fleet as we progress on our journey to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050.” DTE already has a number of different types of electric vehicles including retrofitted electric pickup trucks, passenger vehicles, manlifts, ATVs, and forklifts. And, as the landscape of available options continues to change, they are committed to adding additional electric vehicles.

For a full list of electric vehicles available on the market, check out CALSTART’s Drive to Zero program which has a number of helpful tools, including a vehicle directory where you can browse by vehicle type and make. Fleets can look forward to even more electric vehicles coming to market soon, too. There are at least 5 electric pickup trucks that will drop in the next two years, making it easier than ever for construction vehicles to be electrified. The industry is also expecting a drastic increase in electric delivery vehicles and short haul trucks.

No matter your fleet size, going electric will help save money on fuel and maintenance expenses and improve air quality in the communities you serve. It’s time to plug in to the perks of going electric!

Ford and GM Investing Big in Michigan for Electric and Autonomous Vehicles

Over the past few weeks, Ford and GM announced investments in Michigan manufacturing facilities and new electric vehicle models. Together, they are investing over $3 billion in electric and autonomous vehicle manufacturing in Michigan.

Ford Commits to E-mobility in Michigan, Announces the E-Transit

Ford is investing $850 million into the Van Dyke Transmission Plant in Sterling Heights and the River Rouge Complex in Dearborn to manufacture electric vehicles. All told, these investments will add or retain 725 Michigan jobs. The Van Dyke facility will assemble e-motors and e-transaxles for electric vehicles and the Rouge Plant will produce the all-electric F-150.

Ford also unveiled the E-Transit last week, offering fleets an all-electric option of their popular delivery vehicle. The E-Transit will offer customers software and data services that can help to manage their fleets. The E-Transit release is expected in 2021.

GM is Accelerating EV Investments, Unveils the Hummer EV

GM aims to release 20 electric vehicles by 2023, and thanks to strategic partnerships and technology investments, they are on track to exceed their goal. The Hummer EV was unveiled in late October and is being dubbed “the world’s first supertruck.” The all-electric Hummer is slated to go to production by the end of 2021.

General Motors also announced that they are rebranding their Detroit-Hamtramck plant to “Factory Zero.” GM will spend $2.2 billion to retrofit the facility for zero-emission and autonomous vehicles, and will start calling back workers to the plant in the New Year.

In addition to the Factory Zero investments, GM is also investing $150 million in five additional Michigan facilities. Two of those facilities – Orion Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly – will be used to produce self-driving Cruise Vehicles. Cruise is using the Chevrolet Bolt as the basis for their autonomous vehicles.

Renewable Propane: An Opportunity for Michigan to Lead

Propane gas serves an important role in Michigan’s energy economy. Michigan uses more propane for residential heating than any other state, and Michigan fleets are increasingly looking at propane to provide financial and environmental benefits for their fleet operations. Nationwide, there are about 200,000 vehicles that use propane, from school buses to police fleets, taxicabs, delivery vehicles, and more. That number is growing quickly. ICOM North America, ROUSH CleanTech, and many other businesses in Michigan have invented new and innovative solutions to bring propane vehicles to our roadways in increasing numbers.

Renewable Propane is a Near-Zero Carbon Solution

Renewable propane is providing a new opportunity in the propane market and unknown to many people – renewable propane is not a fossil fuel – it’s made from renewable materials like waste fats and cooking oils. The molecular structure of renewable propane is identical to traditional propane, which means the industry already knows how it will behave and how to use it efficiently.

Renewable propane also has all of the transportation benefits of traditional propane:

  • Cleaner burning, resulting in less air pollution than gasoline or diesel.
  • Affordable and easy refueling, so you can save money without hassle.
  • Domestic source of fuel, meaning we don’t need to rely on imports.

Plus, renewable propane offers a virtually carbon-neutral solution, which is important given Michigan’s goal of net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.  Fleets looking for alternative fuels can use renewable propane to save money, reduce emissions, and help Michigan to reach our energy and environmental goals.

As the supply of renewable propane increases, Michigan should be a leader in renewable propane sourcing and use. One avenue to do so is through the proposed Propane Commission, which is laid out in Senate Bill 1133. SB1133 seeks to promote propane as an alternative fuel by updating the definition of retail propane and by creating a Propane Commission to “foster, develop, and promote the sale and safe use of propane.”

Clean Fuels Michigan Poised for Growth with New Leadership

October 20, 2020 – Clean Fuels Michigan (CFM) is pleased to announce that Jane McCurry assumed the role of executive director in September, succeeding former director, Mike Alaimo.

CFM is a statewide non-profit organization comprised of businesses and other industry stakeholders dedicated to growing a high-tech, clean transportation industry in Michigan. They will be looking to McCurry for leadership and will hone in on her industry knowledge in order to advance the organization’s priorities.

“Jane brings valuable alternative fuel vehicle industry experience combined with excellent leadership skills. These assets and many more will make her an excellent addition to Clean Fuels Michigan,” said Tom Van Heeke, policy lead, General Motors. “I am looking forward to working with Jane and am excited to see where she will take our organization.”

Prior to her role with CFM, McCurry was the electric vehicles program manager at RENEW Wisconsin, where she started and led the organization’s electric vehicles programming and policy efforts.

“It’s an exciting time to be focusing on the clean transportation industry,” says McCurry. “Alternative fuels have so many benefits, from job creation to reduced air pollution. As Michigan looks toward the future of the transportation industry, I believe we are poised not only to benefit from this transition, but to lead it.”

McCurry also served as the executive director of Wisconsin Microfinance for two years, and now sits on the board of directors. She has a Bachelor of Business Administration in Operations and Technology Management and a Bachelor of Science in Environmental Studies from the University of Wisconsin, where she was also a pole vaulter for the Track and Field team. She grew up in Canton, Michigan.

In her free time, McCurry enjoys visiting local farmers markets, working out, and coaching gymnastics.

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About Clean Fuels Michigan: CFM is a member supported non-profit organization comprised of businesses and other industry stakeholders dedicated to growing a high-tech, clean transportation industry in Michigan. To learn more, visit cleanfuelsmichigan.com.

Opinion: Reforms needed for federal EV tax credit

Clean fuels vehicles aren’t just the future, they’re here now.

In fact, alternative fuels vehicles support almost 300,000 American jobs, including thousands in Michigan. Sales of electric vehicles, also known as EVs, have grown in recent years, in part because of their low operating cost and environmental benefits. Another factor is a federal tax credit that has helped reduce their upfront cost, allowing more consumers to afford this exciting new technology. While the tax credit has been effective, it must be updated to reflect the growth and potential of the evolving EV industry.

That’s why consumer, industry and environmental stakeholders recently came together to form the EV Drive Coalition. Our mission is to reform and recharge the electric vehicle tax credit to keep the U.S. competitive in the rapidly changing transportation sector.

The existing $7,500 tax credit has spurred industry growth because it goes directly to the consumer who purchases an electric vehicle. As a relatively new industry, these tax credits have propelled growth because consumers are confident their investment is beneficial to both themselves and the environment. The problem is that for each manufacturer, there is a cap for how many vehicles can be sold with the tax credit. Reforming the credit to lift the manufacturing cap will avoid stunting the industry’s growth and keep us competitive in the global market.

We acknowledge there is a need to phase out the tax credit eventually as more electric vehicles hit the road. However, the U.S. electric vehicle sector still needs the credit to reach its full potential. Failing to fix the tax credit will allow global competitors to take over the EV market while America falls behind. The EV credit is a highly successful, market-based approach to keeping U.S. auto manufactures competitive, and phasing it out too early would hinder this emerging sector of our economy.

When Georgia phased out the EV tax credit, the state saw a 90 percent decline in EV sales, illustrating the importance of the two-way investment between the consumer and producer. Consumers want options and, with so many new electrified vehicles coming to market over the next few years, need to be assured that they can invest in the EV of their choice at an affordable rate.

An analysis by Clean Fuels Michigan found that the clean mobility sector contributes $18.8 billion to Michigan’s economy as well as $700 million in state and local taxes, and this is just the beginning. Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates that by 2030, global sales of electric vehicles will reach 30 million. Ten years later in 2040, there are estimated to be 500 million electric vehicles on the road. The unprecedented potential for growth in the EV industry can only be fully realized if we continue to reward consumers for their investment in a sustainable future and encourage more EV manufacturers to create more jobs here at home.

The EV Drive Coalition understands that automobiles are an essential part of everyday, American life and believe that the future of EV production starts here, in places like Michigan where automotive sector jobs account for  15 percent of the workforce. America’s progress in the EV industry is steady, but through reforming the tax credit, it can soar.

Published in The Detroit News on November 29, 2018