New Chevy Bolt to be 'Built by Michigan,' but will Michigan encourage Bolt sales?

Dear Reader,

It’s official: the upcoming 2016 Chevrolet 'Bolt' will be built by Michigan at the Orion Assembly Plant in Oakland County, alongside the Chevy Sonic. GM officials confirmed our suspicions at the Chicago Auto Show a couple weeks ago, and says it will be making a 200-million dollar investment in the plant.  

Chevy BoltGM is reportedly projecting fairly modest sales projections for the new Bolt (in the 20 to 30k range), though many expect that the longer 200-mile range and affordable price could help propel the EV market to a new level.  The company also notes that a name change for the Bolt could be in the cards, given potential consumer confusion with the Volt.  

In what the Free Press is calling a marriage of California tech and Motown know-how,” Google has announced it is bringing its work on electric driverless cars to Livonia. It’s exciting to see the power of Michigan’s automotive legacy combining with yet another innovative technology leader.  

"To say Silicon Valley is the only place where innovation happens is wrong." - Chris UrmsonGoogle’s director of self driving cars, Chris Urmson, put it this way while talking to the Free Press: “To say Silicon Valley is the only place where innovation happens is wrong. It is not a crusty Detroit/shiny Silicon Valley. Anyone who thinks that is crazy." Further evidence of Detroit’s technology prowess (v. Silicon Valley) was revealed in a recent Anderson Group study. But stay tuned, Apple now appears to be getting in the EV game.

As I mentioned last month, Michigan’s legislature may be sending a different message on innovation as its proposed transportation funding package looks to charge EV owners an extra $75 fee as a way to make up for lost gas-tax revenue. I spoke to MLive recently about how this works to de-incentivize the advanced, emerging technologies being developed and manufactured here in the state. If anything, we should be encouraging EV’s through state policy. And as our analysis from last year has shown, EV owners are already generating more revenue for the state through higher registration fees than owners of gas-powered vehicles, so an additional fee is not only unwarranted, but penalizing.  

Unfortunately, similar fees are being considered in Wisconsin and elsewhere. But many more states are instead finding ways to incentivize EV use--such as through the development of statewide EV charging networks and tax credits for EV purchase.  Utilities are also getting into the game now too, as we feature in the article below.  

Michigan is now at a cross-roads where it has the opportunity to further capitalize on its electric vehicle and advanced battery technology and manufacturing leadership, or instead abandon its competitive edge and let other states take its place.  We hope, for obvious reasons, our state will choose the first of these two roads.  

Thanks for all you do.

Charles Griffith
Climate & Energy Program Director
The Ecology Center