Wolverine Caucus: Electric Vehicles – Can Michigan Lead The Way?

By Erica Colaianne

Increasing funding for and a renewed emphasis on electric vehicles will have a direct impact on Michigan’s economy, by expanding educational infrastructure to educate more students at all levels, while also supporting innovation in myriad areas. 

The future of mobility is dynamic and the auto industry is continuously transforming. Will Michigan, known for vehicle production, be left behind as these advancements are made?

Greg Less, PhD, Director of the University of Michigan Battery Lab and Jeff Sakamoto, PhD, Michigan Engineering professor, discussed this topic at length during a virtual Wolverine Caucus event on Friday, January 21, 2022. 

They talked about the Battery Lab, detailing how many students have used the resources and attended courses in the facility. Less elaborates on how important it is to have a lab like this for individuals to be trained on the equipment and for the workforce to have the necessary experience. 

“U-M is poised to be the location for people to learn about batteries—not just the academic research level stuff but also the hands-on manufacturing,” Less said. “We’re welcoming students from a local community college for a technician-level training on how to use our equipment that is representative of equipment they’re going to find anywhere in the industry.

“It is critical that Michigan stay on this path. Right now we are the auto capital of the world and we do have a lot of capital in this state, but others are moving on us.”

Sakamoto talked about the transition from fossil fuel energy to an electric future, and what U-M is doing to help with the process. 

“If you think about that inflection point, the few percentages of EV sales where all of these batteries are going to be made…who is going to engineer these batteries? Who’s going to make the batteries? Who’s going to integrate these batteries into packs to put these packs into EVs? Well, a lot of that comes from fundamental research and applied research that’s done here at the university,” Sakamoto said. 

Watch the recording of the event to hear more from the experts.

Interested in attending a future Wolverine Caucus program? Visit the Government Relations website to stay informed about upcoming events.