With new battery hub, Chicago seeks to lead nation on electric vehicles. Let's not let them get away with it.


What’s wrong with this picture?

Chicago, aka “the City of the Big Shoulders,” seems to be trying to muscle Michigan out of its current position as the nation’s electric vehicle capital.

What’s their secret? Huge government support and encouragement at all levels, federal, state and local.

Last November, the U.S. Department of Energy announced that Argonne National Laboratory in suburban Chicago had won a $120 million, five-year grant to develop a battery research and development hub.

The hub also will benefit from municipal efforts to promote electric vehicles.  Chicago has already installed the Midwest’s largest network of EV charging stations, and the city is also looking to integrate plug-in vehicles into its large municipal fleet.

Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in published reports that he wants to create a Silicon Valley-style environment for battery development and commercialization. "In Chicago, we are going to be the center of this promising field," he said.

And Governor Pat Quinn is right in there with him, saying he wants to make sure the state has a piece of the $42 billion international battery industry. "Our state early on recognized how important this is to our future," he said. "We want to really be intimately part of it, the center of it."

If we don’t want to lose this race, Michigan needs to get in gear and mobilize resources across the board.

  • We need enlightened incentives at the state level to encourage the purchase and use of EV’s, and to facilitate development of the charging infrastructure.
  • Our cities must play a role by adding EVs to their fleets and implementing plans for new charging stations to welcome EVs to their communities.
  • We also need to mobilize continued federal support through initiatives like President Obama’s EV Everywhere Challenge and the Advanced Energy Manufacturing Tax Credit program (see story below).


Obviously the political leadership in Chicago and elsewhere in Illinois sees the economic potential in the electric vehicle industry.

Anybody concerned about Michigan’s future shouldn’t let this one get away.  


Charles Griffith
Climate & Energy Program Director
Ecology Center

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