A gift we’re grateful to receive

Dear Reader,

It’s a gift-giving season, and a time to say thanks for gifts received.

And here at the Built by Michigan coalition, we’re grateful for the news announced by the White House last month that more than 70 electric utility companies, including Michigan’s DTE and Consumers Energy, will devote at least 5 percent of their annual fleet budgets to purchasing plug-in electric vehicles, for a total commitment of more than $50 million per year.

Dozens more businesses, government agencies, schools, and non-profits also committed to install workplace charging stations for their employees. (Last month, we reported on a collaboration between DTE and MGM in Detroit on just such a project.)

At the announcement, Pacific Gas & Electric demonstrated a plug-in hybrid bucket truck with nearly 80 percent fewer emissions than a conventional truck.

John Podesta operating electric truckBut here’s the coolest part of the story: Not only does PG&E’s plug-in hybrid utility vehicle run cleaner, it provides up to 120 kW of exportable power, meaning that the trucks can actually be used to shorten or end power outages by plugging their reserves into the grid.

“This is the kind of innovation we need to take action on climate change — reducing emissions on the one hand and finding creative ways to boost community resilience on the other,” White House counselor John Podesta wrote in a blog post.

The White House announcement was the latest development in the EV Everywhere Grand Challenge, launched by President Obama in 2012, with the goal producing American-made plug-in electric vehicles that are as affordable for the average American family as gasoline-powered vehicles.

In addition to the stimulus the utilities’ plan will give to the industry, the federal government is doing its part, too. The Department of Energy announced that they would support aggregated purchases of EVs and other advanced-technology vehicles, maximizing customers’ buying power and increasing certainty for manufacturers.

“And we’ve substantially increased the number of electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles in the federal fleet, reducing carbon pollution and cutting fuel costs at the same time,” Podesta wrote. “Taking action on climate change means working at all levels of government and across all sectors of the economy to reduce emissions, develop more clean energy, boost efficiency, and build resilience in American communities.”

This news is a very welcome gift to those of us who believe electric vehicles can make a real difference for Michigan’s workers and Michigan’s environment.

Thanks for all you do.

Charles Griffith
Climate & Energy Program Director
The Ecology Center