Talking Michigan Transportation

Electric vehicle charging: Can Michigan meet the demand?

May 20, 2021 Michigan Department of Transportation Season 3 Episode 57
Talking Michigan Transportation
Electric vehicle charging: Can Michigan meet the demand?
Show Notes Transcript

In the wake of a presidential visit to the Dearborn Ford Rouge Electric Vehicle Center and a subsequent announcement about production of the all-electric F-150 Lightning truck, this week’s podcast examines charging infrastructure in Michigan. 

In the first segment, Aarne Frobom, a senior policy analyst at the Michigan Department of Transportation who has been studying a package of bills related to electric vehicle charging stations, offers some historical perspective on efforts to provide commercial services at state-owned rest areas.

 Later, Michigan Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl, who was on hand for President Biden's visit Tuesday, talks about Ford’s plans for the F-150 Lightning and what the state is doing to support what we know will be increasing demand for charging stations. 

While discussions of installing electric vehicle charging stations at rest areas is relatively new, the debate about the use of those rest areas is as old as the roads themselves. 

As E&E News put it in a 2019 story: "When Congress passed the law that enabled the interstate highway network in 1956, it banned almost all economic activity at rest stops, including anything that aided motorists. That was the result of lobbying from businessmen near the highway who worried that the rest stop would be an irresistible draw." 

Frobom talks about the discussion over the years at the state and federal levels and recounts MDOT's long-ago efforts to work with private entities to offer services on a state-owned site. 

He also discusses the differences between electric vehicle charging stations (electricity comes from government-regulated public utilities) and traditional gas stations, sharing some insight from the book The Gas Station in America. He explains how as the automobile grew into a national phenomenon in the early 20th century, competition between gasoline companies prompted them to engage in “place-product-packaging,” which involved incorporating the entire gas station design into a brand name. 

In Pawl’s segment, recorded Wednesday afternoon, the focus is on President Biden’s visit to the Ford Rouge plant Tuesday and anticipation of the official reveal of the F-150 Lightning, which happened Wednesday evening. 

The president talked about the history of the Rouge Complex and how the facility is making history again. Pawl explains why Detroit is at the epicenter of transformational change again, and why it is vital for the state to support development of more electric vehicle charging infrastructure.  

He pointed to policy issues that he said need to be addressed and the importance of working with other states. 

Other links:

Podcast image courtesy of Joenomias on Pixabay.


Jeff Cranson: Hello, this is the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast. I'm Jeff Cranson, director of communications at the Michigan Department of Transportation.


Cranson: This week, I’m speaking first with Aarne Frobom, a senior policy analyst at MDOT who's been studying a package of bills related to electric vehicle charging stations. Aarne brings a perspective uniquely informed by experience and knowledge of history. Then later I’ll be talking with Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl about President Biden's visit to the Ford Rouge Complex Tuesday to learn about production of the all-electric F-150 pickup and what the state is doing to support what we know will be increasing demand for charging stations. First, Aarne, who points out in his last email that he covered 487 miles before having to refuel. Thanks for taking time to talk on the podcast, Aarne.

Aarne Frobom: Oh, glad to be here, Jeff.

Cranson: So, let me set the stage with a little bit of background as summarized in E&E News just a couple of years ago: ‘When Congress passed the law that enabled the interstate highway network in 1956, it banned almost all economic activity at rest stops, including anything that aided motorists. That was the result of lobbying from businessmen near the highway who worried that the rest stop would be an irresistible draw. They surmised that the government would establish concessions that would pad the government's bank accounts and freeze private industry out. Ever since, states have sought to loosen those rules in order to create revenue to fund road improvements, including the maintenance of rest stops. And ever since, local businesses have resisted.’ In fact, it wasn't until 1983 that congress allowed the sale of vending items like Coca-Cola, M&M's and Cheetos. We see vending machines in almost all the rest areas now. So, Aarne, talk about why this conversation and debate are as old as the interstate freeway system itself.

Frobom: Yeah, the expectation of the architects of the interstate system was that all the services for motorists would be provided by businessmen at the freeway interchanges. Rest areas were always an essential element of the freeway, and that's how MDOT regards them today.  They're a place for motorists to pull over and get out of their cars, use the washrooms, obviously, and most importantly, take a nap if they need to before continuing driving.

Cranson: Some people use them to actually rest is what you're saying.

Frobom: Right, that's why the official name at MDOT is safety rest areas, and that's the most important function from our point of view. Of course, lately, we've been actively inviting truckers to pull into the rest areas and actually spend the night now that they're mandated to be off duty for certain numbers of hours at various points. So, the decision that the department has to make for the future use of the rest areas is will these future uses conflict with the essential function of the rest areas. And that's why we haven't really actively sought to locate additional businesses at the rest areas with one exception that we may cover in a little while here. But in recent years, like you said, my new car can go as far as 460 miles on a tank of gas but getting more than 200 miles out of an electric car battery is pretty difficult. So, a new feature is going to have to be added to the roadside economy. It's a natural question to ask if rest areas might not be a suitable location for electric car chargers.

Cranson: So, before we get into this this most recent package of bills specific to EV charging, let's talk some history first. Long before we were thinking about electric vehicle charging somebody at MDOT was just thinking about ways to monetize rest areas and got pretty far along before the plug got pulled. So, can you talk about that? I think it goes back to the 80’s.

Frobom: Yeah, back in the late 1980’s James Pitz was director of the department, and Jim Pitz was recruited here from Illinois. Whereas most drivers know their toll roads have what they call service oasis where you can not only park and use a washroom, but you'll find all variety of businesses gas stations and restaurants in the freeway rest areas. And the same thing is true in Ohio and New Jersey and Pennsylvania and a number of other places. So, Pitz, like a lot of people today have, asked, ‘Why don't we have anything like that in Michigan.’ And the immediate answer is those business style rest areas are all on toll roads, which predate the interstate system. And they're not really a part of the interstate system even though they have numbers like I-80 and I-76 they're covered by a different law. But the reason that the department was interested in what we call privatizing the rest areas was we were looking for a way to export the burden of rest area maintenance onto somebody other than the road using taxpayer. So, we began investigating if there wasn't a way to make a restaurant operator or another business also operate the rest area, and then they would bear the cost of building and maintaining the rest areas as part of a business lease. But we quickly learned two facts about the law governing rest areas. Both federal and state law have real stern provisions as you said against doing business on the highway right-of-way. Both federal and state law restrict the business at rest areas to agencies that offer services to blind persons, and they're limited to vending machines. And both federal and state law prohibit doing business on the right-of-way—business of any kind because the designers of the system knew that people would be setting up all manner of fruit stands or stores or pretty much any kind of business on all those thousands of miles of land. So, that's pretty expressly prohibited. In fact, even the downtown sidewalk sale requires a special permit to be on the sidewalk. And then finally there's a unique provision of the interstate law that says there may not be a service station of any kind built in an interstate rest area, so building anything like this right on the freeway right-of-way was clearly out. But Jim Pitz was still interested in testing the concept. So, what the department did was buy a large parcel of land on the free market that was the site of a truck stop deal that had fallen through and was available. This was on I-94 just west of Kalamazoo where we needed a rest area to replace one that had been demolished. So, we decided to try adopting the design that some states use where the travel information center or a rest area is located outside the highway right-of-way reached by free access from a road interchanging with the freeway. And we offered a site at the rest area to a restaurant chain or any other business that would want to build something there and operate the rest area. Now, our initial expectation was that no one would want to would want to undertake the burden of operating a state rest area when they could simply build a restaurant or a gas station and conduct business without having the state for a landlord. But the first surprise that came along was that restaurant chains, especially, we're very eager to have that blue sign directing people to their business.

Cranson: Because you theorize that that blue sign lends credibility.

Frobom: Yeah, they felt that it would be an endorsement of the state for their business, which is probably correct. So, once we had all this interest from private investors the department started designing the project, and it grew to include a large gas station including truck fuel and parking spaces. And we continued designing the project and got as far as holding a public information session, like we do for all our projects, out there west of Kalamazoo. But that's when we discovered that the operators of the existing truck stops along the route had been active at the state legislature and had gotten the legislators to add a provision to a bill that the department was interested in seeing past that would prohibit the department from operating what the bill drafters called a service plaza. And that was passed and it's now a part of the basic state highway law. So, that is the end of the attempt to privatize rest areas in Michigan.

Cranson: But at one of these public meetings somebody from that lobby actually pointed at you and called you a commie. So, you were there just kind of observing, as an MDOT policy analyst, something that government was trying to do to offer private industry and opportunity on public land, and that was somehow framed as Communism. That had to have made you laugh out loud.

Frobom: Well, I didn't laugh out loud because the purpose of these meetings, of course, is to hear the opinions and complaints of the public, but we did have some laughs of it afterward when we described how what was basically a privatization project was viewed by the private sector as government competition. All the department was interested in doing was being a lesser of land, just like any other landowner on which any businessman could come and do business.

Cranson: Yeah, I mean, it's the kind of thing that in the abstract free enterprise advocates are saying, you know, all the time that it's something that government should do.

Frobom: Yeah, and there continue to be a slow stream of editorials advocating rest area privatization as a means of shrinking governmental expenditure, but the authors of those editorials obviously haven't been talking to the owners of the truck stops.

Cranson: Right.

Frobom: That are very heavily invested in land next to the existing interchanges.

Cranson: And, as you point out, probably even a more powerful lobby today than they were back in 1988.

Frobom: They seem to be because they have, so far at least, completely shut down debate on this point in the congress. The last two federal highway bills have both included attempts to allow rest area privatization, but none ever made it into the final bills.

Cranson: Well, you know, with an administration with President and Secretary Pete Buttigieg at USDOT, it sounds like this idea of at least freeing up some public right-of-way for electric vehicle charging is going to get legs. Do you think that lobby is so strong at the federal level that they'll be able to head that off?

Frobom: Well, we'll see, but probably nothing has changed in the congress. What we may find is that the U.S. Department of Transportation may make a rule change that changes the way it interprets the federal law that says there cannot be a service station at a rest area. Because no one really knows what a service station means. Clearly, in 1958, it meant gas stations.

Cranson: Yeah, the kind where somebody not only filled your tank for you, they washed your windows, too.

Frobom: Yeah, whereas now we're talking about plugging in an electric car. So, it's probably within the ability of the Federal Highway Administration to do that, and we're starting to hear that that's under serious consideration. That would take care of the federal law on the point.

Cranson: There'd be a pretty powerful lobby for that, too, given that some of our—in Michigan, especially, but, you know, in other states some of our biggest employers are either automakers or suppliers, and they're going to all be tilting probably more and more gradually, and maybe even exponentially, toward electric vehicle production.

Frobom: Some people say that what they call ‘range anxiety’ is the most limiting factor when it comes to electric car sales.

Cranson: Yeah, I believe that.

Frobom: And the solution to that is a denser network of charging stations. And there are now many hundreds of thousands of electric car owners out there.

Cranson: Real quickly, I guess, we don't have to want to go over every single bill, but could you just give your kind of high-level overview of what's going on with this package of bills, which, you know, has some pretty decent bipartisan support? I know representative Dave LaGrand, a Democrat from Grand Rapids, has been pushing for this for a long time, and he's got several Republican co-sponsors.

Frobom: Yeah, there's a package of three bills in the Michigan House that would make the necessary changes to state law to allow charging stations to be installed at freeway rest areas. They would amend the law governing vending machines operated by the blind and prohibiting business on the right-of-way. So far at least, they would not extend to rest areas off the freeway network. We might find that that it makes a lot of sense to try to provide charging stations on the rural two-lane highways.

Cranson: You have a lot of roadside parks.

Frobom: Yes, but the department still has some basic decisions to make about whether this is really a good idea or not. Some of the rural rest areas on the remoter part of the state are not even served by electricity. We don't know how powerful the electrical grid is next to all our rest areas. We don't know if there's enough space in any or all rest areas to install a row of car chargers. We know that the rest areas depend on those parking spaces turning over every few minutes.

Cranson: So, when you say the department has some hard decisions to make, is that your way of saying you're not going to tell me what you think should happen?

Frobom: Well, I think at this point no one really knows what the correct model for electric car charging is going to be. One of the things we looked at lately was a history of gas stations. It might be said that the free market will naturally supply all the electric car charging that's needed just like it did with gas stations back in the 1920’s, or earlier. But one of the differences we learned was that there was a lot of competition following the breakup of standard oil among petroleum producers. And they had to physically get their project product in front of auto drivers in order to sell it, so they wound up building, literally, a gas station on almost every corner. On the other hand, there's no competition among electric utilities. They know the customer has to come to them regardless of what they have to do to find a charging outlet. So, that that free market effect may not apply to car chargers, which is one reason that the Biden administration seems to be getting involved very heavily in this.

Cranson: Well, that's probably a good place to end this conversation, Aarne. But you do remind me with that reference to the public utilities that, you know, something that I’ve been thinking for a long time, and you and I will have to talk about another time on a separate podcast, is why we don't treat roads like the public utility that they are and have a rate setting commission instead of asking congress and state legislatures to make those decisions.

Frobom: Yeah, that's a real powerful idea that has not had much attention.

Cranson: Yeah. Well, thank you, Aarne. This is good. This is informative, and, you know, I’m sure that the conversation will continue along these lines when Trevor Pawl comes on to talk about what his Office of Future Mobility and Electrification is doing on this charging infrastructure challenge. So, thanks again, Aarne.

Frobom: Okay, thanks for asking.

Cranson: As promised, Michigan's Chief Mobility Officer Trevor Pawl is here and if you're thinking ‘hey, why doesn't my state have a chief mobility officer?’ I can only say maybe it should. Trevor, thanks, as always, for making time for the podcast.

Trevor Pawl: Dr. Cranson, how are you today?

Cranson: I'm fine, I'm fine. It's an exciting week. We had the president in the state to talk about an issue that's near and dear to us, especially you in your role. Let's talk first about what it was like Tuesday at the Ford Rouge Complex in Dearborn to be there with the president and some, you know, pretty high level people talking about an issue that's related to jobs, and the evolution of our economy, and really touches everything that we do in terms of transportation and mobility. And before you answer that let's hear a little of what the president had to say on Tuesday.

President Biden: And I wanted to be here today — the day before you unveil the next generation of America’s bestselling vehicle to the entire world — to thank you.  Thank you for showing how we win the competition of the 21st century.  You know, how the future is going to be made — it’s going to be made here in America. The future of the auto industry is electric. There’s no turning back. The real question is whether we’ll lead, or we’ll fall behind in the race to the future; or whether we’ll build these vehicles and the batteries that go in them here in the United States or rely on other countries. We’re going to put Americans to work modernizing our roads, our highways, our ports, our airports, rails, and transit systems. That includes putting IBEW members and the union workers to work installing 50,000 charging stations along our roads and highways, our homes and our apartments.

Pawl: I mean, I guess I should start by saying it's not every day an American president gets to speed down a driving course in an electric truck, let alone drive, period.

Cranson: Right.

Pawl: So, being on the same campus as that history was pretty cool. And the energy inside the new facility within the Dearborn truck complex it was palpable, man. I mean, number one, the facility is gorgeous. It's shiny. But, you know, sometimes you hear the words of our leaders, and those words matter, but what matters more sometimes is the intangibles, the non-verbals, you know, the look in Bill Ford's eye when he was explaining sort of the vision for this factory and how it was going to change the world, the excitement President Biden had as he sort of, in some ways, got back to his roots. One the first things he said was, you know, ‘I am a car guy. ‘And then told stories of the Ford Fairlane. So, you know, and I was reading, I wasn't a part of the tour, but I was reading that he went zero to 60 miles per hour in about 4.4 seconds. So, it's just—there's certain moments that I think don't happen everywhere all the time, but Detroit seems to get its fair share of these historic moments that bring together the public sector and the private sector to talk about what's coming and what's about to change the world in a really positive way. And I was feeling yesterday that that was one of those moments that we'll talk about. I mean, you think back to Obama’s visit to the Detroit Auto Show after Detroit’s come back, that was an iconic visit. I felt like yesterday was very much also an iconic visit.

Cranson: Well, yeah, I mean, that's the thing. You're talking about a historic plant already that's part of making history again and you can't overstate it. And you're right, you can't overstate—

Pawl: Well, you know, and I have to say that one of the more moving moments of the event was when the president of the UAW got up and talked about the Rouge plant, and its historical reputation, and how they just get made fun of. They essentially were called the museum curators, you know, like—

Cranson: Well, because they have an actual museum there.

Pawl: Yeah, right, exactly. I mean, that's all that property was for a long period of time, remnants of the past, remnants of what didn't work, a place where lessons were learned. Yes, sure, you can make a case for all those things. Again, it goes back to not just the words but just the emotions that you could tell that that particular UAW leader had around this new beginning.

Cranson: When you think about what we've been through with debates about CAFE standards and people legitimately blaming, you know, emissions for a lot of our pollution and what's going on with air quality, especially in urban areas, and, you know, a lot of people just blaming the vehicle. And I don't think very many people, optimistic as they may be, realized how quickly we could pivot to electric energy and completely turn that whole argument on its head. It's a good thing.

Pawl: Yeah, you're absolutely right. I mean, but there is some truth to the statement that the last 10 years have seen global carbon emissions from transportation exceed global carbon emissions from built infrastructure. So, the pivot, I think, is noteworthy, granted there's like three percent adoption at this point for electric vehicles, but that definitely is going to change exponentially. I think going forward, given the investments we've seen even by just, you know, Michigan’s home team, General Motors, Stellantis, and Ford just since 2019, I mean, they've invested $10 billion dollars in vehicles that will be electric or have electric features and frankly, also have autonomous features. And that's going to create 10,000 jobs. So, I think that pivot is still in its early stages. I mean, I think we're in the first quarter of a three-overtime thriller but just the fact that we've accomplished as much as we have up to this point as a local industry and, you know, the money that's being put into scaling going forward, not just in the electric vehicles themselves but also the batteries, makes me really optimistic about this region. But also it keeps me up at night trying to figure out ways to make sure that we have the workforce, ways that, you know, we have the R&D, our universities are given the right resources to ensure that as we're producing the batteries of today we're also thinking about the batteries of tomorrow, battery recycling, bi-directional charging, wireless charging in motion, those leapfrog moments that this region is known for. As we're sort of scaling up to keep up, we need to make sure that we're also still, you know, creating these leadership moments for the state because if we don't do it, who's going to do it, right?

Cranson: So, that's what's keeping you up at night and it's not having a young child? Okay, good to know.

Pawl: He sleeps really well. He goes down at 7:30 and wakes up at about 7:30. I don't know how long this is going to last, but it is amazing. It's magical.

Cranson: Enjoy it while you can. You're a lucky guy, but I also want to say that I appreciate your triple overtime metaphor. But since this is the week that Spencer Turnbull pitched a no-hitter for the Tigers we should—

Pawl: He did? Wow! Breaking news! Thank you for sharing that.

Cranson: Yeah, so let's talk about—so, we know that Tuesday you had that visit with the president and got to talk about what's going on with the F-150. And then on Wednesday, going to the point that you're making about how this will take off exponentially and what Ford is banking on and really, you know, putting all their chips on is what this vehicle will offer to people and why they'll like it. So, can you talk about that?

Pawl: From what I gather—and we haven't seen the official rollout yet, that'll be this evening and recording in the afternoon, there will be functionality that people will really like because, obviously, with electric vehicles, you know, the content of the car is changing, where things are placed. The battery skateboard concept frees up the front for an additional storage space, which they're calling the ‘frunk,’ you may hear that. But then also the ability for the car to operate as a generator. I mean, you've seen this in crisis situations down in Texas recently with the weather, climate change. There's bi-directional charging capabilities that even can roll in some solar components, and that will be some news that's made tonight, where you'll be able to leverage solar panels to charge your vehicle and in turn add power back into the grid and improve your energy cost models as a consumer but also as a business. Now, the thing that I think will be market moving for this new vehicle is the price. I think people will love the functionality, but from what I’ve been told, and I don't know the price at this point, it will be a similar moment to when the Model T was introduced where you had, you know, expensive technology that appeared as though it was for the rich, but then the Model T came out. The people working on the line were actually able to buy the product that was rolling off of it. And this feels like that moment at least for electric vehicles early on and electric pickup trucks for sure. The price tag will be something that Ford believes will be affordable. And these service networks, you know, the dealers have come along the journey with Ford in the creation of the F-150 Lightning, so there will be maintenance systems. So, you won't have to worry about where to go if something happens, God forbid, to your new F-150 Lightning. And I mean, I know I’m kind of going on and on here, but I think the idea of sort of democratizing electric vehicles for everybody is something that hasn't really happened yet. And I think tonight, and potentially over the next couple of months, Ford may be the first to begin to do that.

Cranson: Earlier, I spoke with Aarne Frobom, who you know is a senior policy analyst at MDOT, about some of the history involved in states trying to have vending services in public right-of-way places like rest areas, and why that's been such a challenge with the Federal Highway Administration and long-ago laws that created the interstate system. All of this, all of what Ford and GM and other automakers are banking on and putting into electric vehicles is going to require a charging network that feels like a big safety net to people with range anxiety, which is a very understandable emotion. Talk about your role in that and what the state can and should be doing to help support, you know, where we're going with electric vehicles.

Pawl: So, I'm very lucky in this role and our office is very lucky to sit in between state departments. And that's strategic because if we're going to be the mobility leaders, the electrification leaders, I mean, we got to pull in teams that are working on the grid, working on roads, working on economic development, working on labor. And so, we sit between those couple of departments and have team members from each of those departments helping us out. So, a couple things that I’m seeing, at least from that vantage point, that get me real excited is the work that the Department of Environment, Great Lakes, and Energy have done around creating a DC fast charging network for worried free EV travel throughout Michigan by 2030. But they've already started, so I know that seems like it's in the future but, I mean, this isn't going to be one failed swoop. It's going to happen in steps, and they've already started optimizing placement of EV charging stations statewide. They just made an announcement a few weeks ago of rolling out 88 chargers in really strategic locations. And they're leveraging the Volkswagen Diesel Settlement fund that the state was awarded a few years ago to turn around this charging infrastructure. So, it's a really smart business model, but it's not just state government, right? The utilities are making commitments in a big way. DTE energy and Consumers Energy have partnered with six other utilities to make essentially travel from, like, Detroit to Wichita, Kansas easier for electric vehicles by 2022. And DTE and Consumers have set ambitious decarbonization targets of 2050 and 2040, respectively. You know, it's important that when you cross a state line the charging map and charging experience doesn't change. So, our office has been pretty active with work working with other states, specifically in the Midwest, to ensure that the Midwest has the best charging network in the world, not just Michigan. And that goes for both, you know, passenger vehicle travel and also commercial travel. So, you know, it's an exciting time.

Cranson: Yeah, well, even though those public utilities are regulated by each state, and each state has, you know, some kind of public service commission that does those regulations. Rates are going to be different from state to state based on, you know, supply and demand and deals they've made and probably what will be, you know, some kind of tax structure at some point as we figure out a way to, you know, pay for the roads that these vehicles still use. So, at first, I was thinking long gone will be the days where you, like, run to another state because gas is five cents cheaper, but we could still we could still end up that way with electricity.

Pawl: You know, it's funny, I was just having a conversation about gas stations and the future of gas stations. And, you know, the thing is people are like, ‘what's going to happen? Are they all going to go away?’ No, they're not going to go away because gas stations don't make money off of gas. It's almost like they're misnamed, or they should be named something different. And they probably will be at some point, like electric stations, charger stations, because they make their money off convenience items. And the truth is they're going to be holding—at least in the near term these station owners are going to be holding customers longer as their vehicles charge. Because right now it's pretty efficient to fill up, but it's probably going to take longer—not too much longer—but longer in the immediate term. And you're going to have plenty of opportunities to provide new convenience services to those that are servicing your station or patronizing your station, I should say.

Cranson: More than just beef jerky.

Pawl: Yeah, right, more beef jerky.

Cranson: Well, so, talk about where you think Michigan is and where it should be. I mean, we've made some advances already. I mean, the network is probably more vast than people realize, especially people who don't have electric vehicles. But what do you see doing, I guess, and advocating to get us to that seamless point where we really do, you know, we don't need an emotional support animal with us anymore because we're not going to run out of electricity to fuel our vehicle?

Pawl: By the way, cats are my preferred animal for that, for emotional support.

Cranson: You don't want a pony?

Pawl: No, no. Anyway, so, I think it comes down to this that the governor, our state department directors want a green, electric, and multi-modal future that benefits our automotive industry and any other transportation industry. In doing that, maintaining industry leadership, we're also making Michigan simply one of the best places in the world to move around. And in that future, there's a couple of barriers that we need to reduce, specifically for EV adoption. The first is efficiently integrating electric vehicle loads into the grid, making strategic investments right now that put us ahead of states like Texas, Arizona. Sure, we may lose deals, economic development deals to these states at this point because energy costs are much lower there, but at some point, they're going to have to make large investments that are going to up the cost of doing business as it relates to energy costs. So, in many ways, Michigan is very progressive in how they're looking at the future of renewables and the future of energy and are ahead of states that maybe are low-cost states but are going to need to upgrade soon. Secondly, we want to leverage new technologies that assert, not only Michigan’s position, but north America’s position as a global leader in electrification. And that goes to—I mentioned this a little bit earlier, but that goes to innovations like bi-directional charging that add power back into the grid, and wireless charging in motion where vehicles can charge just by driving because there's coils embedded in the road that are safe to charge the vehicle. Also, demand response situation so leveraging larger vehicles to store energy and use that energy where it's needed most. And then the third thing, you know, reducing barriers to EV adoption, something we're focused on here, is creating great, green jobs that build a stronger, more resilient Michigan economy, Midwest economy, American economy coming out of the pandemic. And in those three buckets, the integrating into the grid, leveraging new technologies, and creating these great, green jobs our states are very much aligned with, you know, the federal job—the American Jobs Plan and other things that the federal government is doing right now. I think everyone can agree that there's going to be some additional resources that are going to come from Washington D.C. and impact states. There's going to be money to make the transition to electric. The question is are we laying the right tracks right now to get our fair share of those dollars? And if we get those dollars, how quickly can we activate?

Cranson: So, how do you answer that question?

Pawl: Well, I don't think there's one easy answer. I think that maybe the easiest answer off-the-cuff is responsive policy and dynamic programming and leveraging what we have in our governor appointed Council on Future Mobility Electrification to make policy suggestions that help us create the rights-of-way necessary to capitalize on the investments that the federal government makes in our state. Dynamic programming, being an aggressive initiator of public-private partnerships, similar to what MDOT has done with Cavnue and sidewalk infrastructure partners in the Detroit to Ann Arbor corridor, there are partnerships, I think, in the green space, in the electrification space that can be just as bold. But we need to be—we can't rest on our laurels. We need to move fast with a sense of urgency. There's new competitors out there that aren't just states. There are entire countries, look at what Canada’s doing right now. Where, you know, we're competing with state incentives against Canada, who has province incentives but then also the federal government will kick in a couple hundred million. So, what are we doing—not just to write the biggest check—as a state, to attract these companies, attract these investments, but what are we doing to create the ecosystem where we don't have to pay a premium each time we're competing for a company? You know, what are the tracks that we're laying? How are how are we laying them and how are we communicating them? That's what's going to be critical.

Cranson: Well, you're right. I think that there's some pretty good momentum that's created by private industry, once again, because of things like what Ford is doing, you know, that's going to up demand. It's going to up sales, and it's going to mean a greater demand for the electricity for those vehicles.

Pawl: Yeah, and traditionally it's like infrastructure has been—you invest in infrastructure to help people and goods move, whether it's transit, delivery vans, whatever it is. But then there's infrastructure you lay that create community vitality to attract companies, to create jobs. More than ever, those two things are no longer siloed. You can't separate smart infrastructure, electrified infrastructure anymore. I mean, those are core economic development pieces that are job creators that will attract the great companies, will attract portions of the supply chain that if you can get them in your state, you will have vitality for the next 50 years within your economy. It's all tied together more than ever now.

Cranson: Okay, I think this is a good place to end it because we're going to have plenty of opportunities to talk about this more and we will. As always, Trevor, I appreciate your enthusiasm and your bullishness on our beautiful state and where we're going with everything related to mobility, so thank you.

Pawl:  I still can't believe that Spencer Turnbull threw a no-hitter for the Detroit Tigers last night. Thank you for sharing that with me.

Cranson: I’ll send you the link from MLB that will give you a quick video rundown of all 27 outs.

Pawl: I would appreciate that. Thank you, Jeff.

Cranson: Thank you again for listening to this week's edition of the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast. I would like to thank Randy Debler and Corey Petee for engineering this week's podcast. To subscribe to show notes and more, go to Apple podcasts and search for Talking Michigan Transportation.