Michigan aims to remain dominant in changing transportation times
A few years ago, a man chatting with fellow travelers on a shuttle to the Detroit Metro Airport recalled his home state of Montana.
He had moved to Michigan but spoke enthusiastically about Montana’s natural wonders. At one point, someone asked him why he left. He replied, “Because I can’t get a job as an infotainment technology engineer in Montana. I can in Detroit.
Michigan and Detroit (aka Motor City) in particular have long been the epicenter of the American auto industry.
The state is determined to keep it going as the world and industry sink deeper into the age of electric vehicles and move closer to the era of autonomous vehicles.
“The next 10 years will be a landmark decade for the auto industry,” said Trevor Pawl, Michigan State Director of Mobility.
Due to the automotive industry, Michigan has the most engineers per capita in the United States. The state’s premier industry attracts people from all over the world.
Regarding electric vehicles and the development of autonomous vehicles, Pawl (photo below, left) adds: “A strong economy can be achieved through safer, more equitable and environmentally friendly transport for all. “
During a Society of Automotive Analysts webinar titled “Reimagining the Future of Mobility,” he says his state office has two goals: to grow Michigan’s mobility and electric vehicle industry, and to lead the world in R&D on mobility and electric vehicles.
It is built on a solid foundation. Automakers and suppliers invested $ 41.6 billion and created 90,000 new jobs between 2010 and 2019 in Michigan. This contrasts with $ 1.5 billion in California.
Webinar participant Scott Hipakka talks about the growing ties in the automotive industry between Michigan and Israel, home to many high-tech startups.
He is CEO of Michigan Israel Business Accelerator, a nonprofit group he says strives to advance the state’s innovative ecosystem “one Israeli connection at a time.”
“In Michigan, we’re good at building things,” he says of a state that alone has 12 major auto assembly plants. “There isn’t a lot of manufacturing in Israel,” largely because of its relatively small geographic size. His organization’s logo is an Israeli map embedded in a map of Michigan; Israel is roughly the size of the state’s upper peninsula (photo below).
Hipakka estimates that he is on the phone 10 times a week with Israeli companies. “There is a culture in Israel that, if it doesn’t exist, create it. “
In terms of innovation, Michigan and Israel naturally lend themselves to commercial collaborations. He describes his work as akin to match.com, a dating website.
Pawl predicts, “We will see factories of Israeli companies in Michigan. “
“The state produces a third of electric vehicle batteries in the United States,” he adds. “The Detroit Three (General Motors, Ford and Stellantis) plan to manufacture half of their electric vehicles in Michigan over the next seven years.”
Mobility is not limited to passenger vehicles, note two other webinar participants.
They are Tanya Skilton, director of purchasing and supply chain at BrightDrop, a new unit of GM, and Peter Deppe, co-founder and CEO of Kuhmute, a startup based in Flint, MI, which produces Electric charging stations, adapters and other equipment for electric bikes, scooters, wheelchairs and delivery robots.
BrightDrop offers connected products for delivery services, including electric vehicles, electronic pallets and cloud-based fleet management software.
“100 million packages are delivered to the United States every day,” Skilton says of the e-commerce boom. “That’s an incredible number.”
BrightDrop’s goal is to “decarbonize” the delivery process, she says. “We call it ‘Carbongeddon’. We are committed to zero emissions. The demand for e-commerce has outstripped current solutions.
Together with GM, the company will begin selling its EV600 delivery van with a range of 400 km by the end of the year. Delivery companies with defined routes “can do a lot with a range of 150 miles (240 km),” Skilton explains. “We fill the order books. Customers include Federal Express.
Kuhmute is centered on “micro-mobility” with its involvement in e-bikes and electric scooters, Deppe says. “It’s a state of mind.” In the reimagined era of mobility, “don’t forget the little things”.
Steve Finlay is a retired editor of WardsAuto. He can be contacted at [email protected].