Dingell holds electric vehicle roundtable with labor, autos and enviros in Detroit

Image by Stan Petersen from Pixabay
Updated, 1:07 p.m., 11/26/19

U.S. Debbie Dingell (D-Dearborn) met in Detroit on Monday with industry, labor and environmental leaders to explore how to work together on electric vehicles (EVs).  

The event held at IBEW Local 58 also included United Steelworkers, Ford Motor Co., United Auto Workers, CalStart, the Ecology Center, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club Michigan Chapter and the BlueGreen Alliance. 

U.S. Rep. Debbie Dingell leads a roundtable on electric vehicles in Detroit, Nov. 25, 2019 | Ken Coleman

“We have to work to bring everybody together,” Dingell said. “We have to work across sectors. This is the first meeting and I hope that there will be many more. I have to bring people together rather than have a circular firing squad.” 

The group discussed impediments to expanding the electric vehicle industry, which included the lack of infrastructure; enabling government policy such as tax incentives at the federal, state and local levels; as well as consumer confidence and level of demand. They also agreed that the industry should provide good-paying jobs for American workers and that EVs are better for the environment. 

Dingell, for example, said during the meeting that she is working on legislation that will provide incentives for new homebuilding to include electric vehicle charging ports.

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The Blue Green Alliance helped Dingell to schedule the meeting. 

“I think that we are in the beginning of having these types of conversations,” said Frank Houston, Blue Green Alliance Michigan Regional program manager. 

Houston said that there also is a need to include other stakeholders, including utilities like DTE Energy and Consumers Energy. 

A national 2016 report written by the Sierra Club revealed that of the 44% of auto dealerships that did sell electric vehicles had no more than two EVs available on the lot. Of the dealerships that sold EVs, more than 66% did not display EVs prominently, with vehicles sometimes buried far in the back.

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Furthermore, the survey found that salespeople often failed to provide information on federal or state consumer incentives or were poorly informed or uninformed about EV technology.

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak) wasn’t at the meeting and is helping to lead a bipartisan and bicameral package of bills that are designed to encourage more Michigan residents to purchase electric vehicles.* 

State Sen. Mallory McMorrow at Lansing Community College, June 4, 2019 | Susan J. Demas

“No other state has the history, talent and capability to design and build the next generation of electric vehicles,” she said in June, “but we need to have the infrastructure in place to support that development.”

Seven state lawmakers have joined McMorrow sponsoring the bill package:

  • State Rep. Julie Alexander (R-Jackson), sponsor of HB 4788, which promotes charging stations and tourism. 
  • State Rep. Joe Bellino (R-Monroe), sponsor of HB 4789, which provides a benefit to businesses. 
  • State Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor), sponsor of SB 408, which establishes charging stations to ease travel for commuters
  • State Rep. David LaGrand (D-Grand Rapids), sponsor of HB 4602, which supports the growth of electric vehicles.
  • State Sen. Kim LaSata (R-Bainbridge Township), sponsor of SB 407, which supports the establishment of charging stations in state parks. 
  • State Rep. Yousef Rabhi (D-Ann Arbor), sponsor of HB 4787, which addresses the installation of charging stations at park and rides.
  • State Rep. Tim Sneller (D-Burton), sponsor of HB 4786, which addresses automotive innovation and technology.

* This story has been corrected to reflect that Sen. McMorrow was not at the meeting.

Ken Coleman
Ken Coleman covers Southeast Michigan, economic justice and civil rights. He is a former Michigan Chronicle senior editor and served as the American Black Journal segment host on Detroit Public Television. He has written and published four books on black life in Detroit, including Soul on Air: Blacks Who Helped to Define Radio in Detroit and Forever Young: A Coleman Reader. His work has been cited by the Detroit News, Detroit Free Press, History Channel and CNN. Additionally, he was an essayist for the award-winning book, Detroit 1967: Origins, Impacts, Legacies. Ken has served as a spokesperson for the Michigan Democratic Party, Detroit Public Schools, U.S. Sen. Gary Peters and U.S. Rep. Brenda Lawrence. Previously to joining the Advance, he worked for the Detroit Federation of Teachers as a communications specialist. He is a Historical Society of Michigan trustee and a Big Brothers Big Sisters of Metropolitan Detroit advisory board member.