The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law signed by President Biden in late 2021, among many things, established a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Formula Program (“NEVI Formula”) to provide funding to states to strategically deploy electric vehicle (EV) charging infrastructure and to establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability.
In order to access those federal funds, in Michigan’s case, $110 million, states are required to submit a plan to the federal government. MDOT submitted the plan on Thursday, July 28, but the development involved several state agencies and other partners.
This week’s Talking Michigan Transportation podcast features a conversation with two of the people who worked on the plan:
— Niles Annelin is a policy section manager at MDOT and spearheaded the department’s efforts on the plan.
— And Judd Herzer, director of strategic policy at the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Opportunity (LEO) and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification.
Among the most vital themes emphasized in the plan is equity. Annelin talks about the extensive efforts the team took to ensure to maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities. Herzer explains how a work force development initiative serves that goal.
Specifically, the plan says the state will seek to “maximize benefits to disadvantaged communities, as well as rural and underserved communities, in alignment with the Justice40 Initiative” and will “foster a diverse pipeline of workers in EV-related careers” and “equity-driven workforce training.”
Other highlights from the Michigan NEVI Plan include:
Jeff Cranson: Hello, welcome to the Talking Michigan Transportation podcast. I'm your host, Jeff Cranson.
Cranson: The bipartisan infrastructure law signed by President Biden in late 2021, among many things, established a National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure formula program. We call that NEVI, and it's supposed to provide funding to states to strategically deploy electric vehicle charging infrastructure and establish an interconnected network to facilitate data collection, access, and reliability—emphasis on reliability. In order to access those federal funds, in Michigan’s case, 110 million dollars, states are required to submit a plan to the federal government. MDOT submitted their plan on Thursday, July 28th, but the development was yeoman's work with a team effort involving not only MDOT, but the Department of Environment Great Lakes and Energy, the Michigan Public Service Commission because of the necessary electricity, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. Today, I’ll be speaking with a couple of the people who led the Michigan effort. Niles Annelin is a policy section manager at MDOT and spearheaded the department's efforts on the plan. Niles, thank you for being here.
Niles Annelin: Yeah, thank you for having me.
Cranson: And Judd Herzer took the lead for the Office of Future Mobility and Electrification. I came to know Judd in the early days of the Whitmer administration when he was tasked with directing policy on transportation and was trying to learn a lot in a short amount of time about how we fund transportation in Michigan, why we need to do a lot more. And I can honestly say that he was drinking from the proverbial fire hose then. But he's learned a lot since then, and in his new role, he's leading all things related to new mobility, including electrification and charging. So, Judd, glad you could join us today.
Judd Herzer: Happy to be here, Jeff. Good morning.
Cranson: So, let's start, Niles, with you first. Why did we have to develop this plan and submit it? What was the thinking behind the federal government and requiring this?
Annelin: Yeah, so as you mentioned, it's a formula fund. So, they wanted to make sure that if they're investing, the federal government is investing a considerable amount of money in this, they wanted to make sure that states had some sort of framework and consistency in the deployment and development of charging stations along Michigan and national corridors. So, in February, they released guidance on how to develop these plans, and we were given a kind of uncommonly short time frame. We only had several months between February and August to get this completed, and it required considerable stakeholder engagement. That was one of the main elements of the plan. Again, the federal government was wanting to make sure that this investment is developed appropriately and used for the best good of the public and the industry. So, they did kind of direct us towards developing charging stations along alternative fuel corridors, which is a program that's been in legislation before, and Michigan has gone after designating our interstates, our US routes. And to be able to say that they're friendly for alternative fuel vehicles. But this took it one step further, and the guidance said now that we have these designated corridors, this is where we should focus our energy on building the charging stations. This, again, being to help support the traveling public reduce range anxiety that people might have with electric vehicles and to really try to help kick start this type of transportation.
Cranson: So, Judd, in your discussions with people, and you've talked to a lot of different people, both in industry and in government, about this whole thing, and range anxiety comes up a lot. How big a factor do you think that is in still holding us back from where we need to be?
Herzer: Range anxiety is still a significant factor in the minds of a prospective electric vehicle consumer. Somebody who's thinking about making the switch from an internal combustion engine or gas-powered vehicle to an EV often thinks about an electric vehicle as what we call a family's second car; meaning, not a car that they feel comfortable taking a long-distance trip in, out of concerns of a lack of charging stations and a fear of being stranded. Which, the fears are legitimate, however, with the NEVI resources and other resources that the state of Michigan and other states across the country have put towards building out EV infrastructure, I would say that the practical concerns around range anxiety are rapidly diminishing and reaching a point where that's not a real concern once you start looking at the numbers. But the implied or perceived range anxiety is still a concern, which is why it's important for states to, in addition to deploying NEVI resources, think strategically about ways that we can help develop long distance initiatives that are well publicized and help settle those concerns for EV purchasers, since it is important that we do support this transition to electrified mobility, as it's not only good for the environment and reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector, which is the largest emitting GHG sector in our economy, both as a state and nationally, but it's important for Michigan’s economy. In particular in the Great Lakes region, given the footprint of auto manufacturing that happens in our state and the number of jobs tied to the future of the mobility industry. And so, every EV that is bought and sold across the country and across the world, in some ways, helps bolster Michigan’s economy in Michigan’s automotive industry.
Cranson: So, among the themes emphasized in the plan, going to that point, and we know this is very important, developing a safe, equitable, reliable, convenient, interconnected transportation electrification network. I think that probably the one that people might struggle with is the equitable component of that. I know that equity is very important to Governor Whitmer, and to President Biden, and to USDOT, Secretary Pete Buttigieg. Niles, talk about the plan, and what's in there related to equity.
Annelin: Yeah, absolutely, you're correct. Equity was certainly a required component of this plan and something we definitely wanted to make sure we addressed in a comprehensive manner. So, we worked with our consultant on this program to identify areas of the state of Michigan with persistent poverty, areas with disadvantaged communities, and then we overlaid our alternative fuel corridor, or our deployment corridors, over those areas and really found that we have over 200 miles of corridors that run through disadvantaged communities. So, this will be an opportunity for investment in those areas. And 11 miles that go through tribal lands as well. So, outreach and stakeholder engagement continues beyond this plan, beyond this point. So, there will be more opportunities to hear from folks around the state about what they want to see here. But we did outreach to try to understand local needs and priorities, and we tried to engage a diverse spectrum of stakeholders. An ongoing effort that Judd can maybe speak to—his organization is also developing some workforce programs to help address equity issues. Is that correct, Judd?
Herzer: Yeah, that's right. We definitely wanted to look at equity through, not just the lens required under the program guidance, the NEVI program guidance, with regards to where the stations would be deployed in the impact on air quality in those communities that are historically disadvantaged or suffering environmental injustice, but from a workforce perspective as well. It's important for the state of Michigan to foster a diverse pipeline of workers and EV related careers. And we are, at the Department of Labor and Economic Opportunity, supporting workforce training programs that will help support the build out of these EV charging stations in a way that is equity driven and will help create jobs and economic opportunities for individuals living in communities across Michigan that have historically lacked those chances. So, we're very excited about what these resources mean, not just from the perspective of supporting an electrified mobility future, but also what they mean from an equity standpoint.
Cranson: So, do you see this becoming part of a training education system, either at the secondary level or the community college level? We learned with the Michigan Council of Future Mobility in its earliest days by visiting Washtenaw Community College that they put a lot of emphasis on repairing automated vehicles, something that was a brave new world to people. It's like, we're developing these new features in this new technology, but most of the shops where you and I take our cars aren't going to know how to fix these things. So, we need to develop a workforce that does know how to do that. Is it pretty much the same thing with EVs and charging?
Herzer: I would say so, yeah. The transition to the electrified mobility, and low-no vehicles, and the advanced software that's going to be on cars rolling out today, and tomorrow, and 10 years down the line are opportunities for us to enhance Michigan’s workforce and Michigan’s economy. We're gonna need a lot of qualified, certified workforce to install and maintain these charging stations. And it's an opportunity for us to get it right from the beginning in terms of who we're helping create new opportunities for, and who we’re helping get into a career pipeline and a pathway towards high demand, good paying jobs.
Cranson: So what do you hear, Judd, in terms of industry and where prices are going? Because if we talk about equity for charging, we got to think about the cost of electric vehicles. And real or perceived, there's still a mindset that they cost more. And certainly tax credits help and incentivize ownership, but where do you think we are in terms of accessibility for everybody to an electric vehicle?
Herzer: It's a good question, Jeff. There's a lot of factors that go into that answer, and I’ll try and hit on a couple of them, at least very briefly. You mentioned consumer incentives that will help drive down the prices of electric vehicles, and really the aim there is to get them on parity with an internal combustion engine vehicle. And folks may ask, why are the two vehicles differently priced today? Well primarily, it's because the capacity to manufacture an electric vehicle is not the same as it is for an internal combustion engine vehicle right now. The internal combustion engine market is much more mature than the EV market is. And so, that will develop over time, and it may take a little while. And so in the interim, consumer incentives are really good public policy to help put people in electric vehicles. Likewise, as more EVs start to get deployed and recycle through the market, we'll see a growing secondary vehicle market, and there will be more used EVs available for sale. But another thing to keep in mind is the availability of charging opportunities that sometimes can help sway an individual's decision regarding whether to purchase an EV. And so, that's another reason why these NEVI funds are really important to helping, not just develop a nationwide network of EV charging stations, but to actually support electric vehicle adoption and electric vehicle manufacturing. And I’ll just note; I can't help but see the connection between states submitting these plans by the August 1st deadline. Today’s July 29th. Plans are due on Monday. And we just got good news out of the federal government over the last couple of days regarding the passage of the CHIPS Act, which is another critical component piece of bolstering domestic manufacturing of vital component pieces of electric vehicles. And we're very excited about what all this means for Michigan and Michigan’s economy and the future of our automotive industry.
Cranson: That's a really good point, Judd. The CHIPS Act is a huge deal, and I hope it doesn't get hung up in the Senate with some unrelated things that are being thrown into the mix. And I’m sure you're following that story closely, too. Niles, let's say you're going to a cookout this weekend with some relatives you haven't seen in a while, and they ask you, so yeah, what have you been up to lately? How would you summarize, in layman's terms, what this is, what your work with the report is, what it means, why it's interesting, why you find it satisfying? What would you say?
Annelin: Yeah, that's a great question. I think what I would say to a group of family and friends is, this is really just a great opportunity to help advance a cleaner transportation option for the future of Michigan. And really developing this plan was a requirement to receive that 110-million-dollar investment over five years for the state of Michigan, and it's just really been a great opportunity to work with all the other state agencies and all the stakeholders that we've reached out to. I think it's really going to kick start the investment in charging stations around the state, and I think it will help address the concerns that people might have around buying an electric vehicle. I know that electric F-150, the Ford F-150, I think that's a really exciting opportunity. And this is just going to help increase opportunities for people to buy electric vehicles in the future because they know that there’ll be a place to charge. It's also a really great opportunity to help support our local businesses, as these will likely be developed on private property, these won't be developed on state-owned land. At least not MDOT owned land. So really, it's just kind of an exciting first step in a new wave of green clean transportation.
Cranson: Well said, and, Judd, going to that point about incentivizing private industry, I think that what the federal government is doing, and what the state government in turn is doing, is trying to plant some seeds, obviously, and help private industry get going on this. Where do you come down on that argument that this should all be private equity driven and be a free-market solution, and what government's role should be?
Herzer: Yeah. There are, I think, strategic investments that the public sector, state government can make to help bolster the emerging markets, like that for electric vehicles that are strategic in nature, that will in time return on that investment a multiplier that is so big that it's difficult to actually calculate. Not just the jobs that are created, but all the ancillary and downstream market effects of having and supporting the development of a new industry or the transition of an existing industry to a new phase. The aim here with these NEVI resources is a shot in the arm, essentially, to develop a robust network of electric vehicle chargers that eliminates range anxiety, so that people feel comfortable purchasing an electric vehicle in the future. It is not intended to be an ongoing source of funding, to continuously deploy new charging stations, or maintain ones that have been deployed previously. So, really, it's on us as people within state government who are managing these dollars going forward, to do so in a way and with an eye towards developing the most commercially robust or commercially viable network of charging stations, as well as meeting some of our other goals related to the reduction of carbon emissions, supporting the electric vehicle market here in Michigan, as well as the equity issues that we talked about earlier. So, that is our main aim, one of our main aims, to help develop a network of charging stations that is commercially viable and will exist long past the time that these resources are depleted.
Cranson: Yeah, that's well put, and I think that everything we can do from an education standpoint to let people know how much is going on in developing this broad electric infrastructure, so that we do have a connected program, connected network across the state, will help allay those fears. And that's something that we're going to need to do to support where we know consumer interest and where some of our state's biggest employers are going. So, congratulations to both of you for getting this over the finish line and submitting it to the federal government, and thank you both for taking time today to talk about this.
Annelin: Alright, thank you.
Herzer: Thanks, Jeff, appreciate you having us on and giving us the opportunity to talk about the NEVI plan.
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 podcast and search for Talking Michigan Transportation.