(WXYZ) — We have heard about big investments from the Big Three in battery tech impacting metro Detroit. This week, we also heard about investments at American Battery Solutions in Orion Township. Is this hype? Or is this a revolution?
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Filling up remains how the vast majority of Americans power their cars. A recent Pew Research Center Survey found only 7 percent of U.S. adults have an electric or hybrid vehicle. And only 39% say they would even consider an electric vehicle next time they buy.
Still, some say a shift is underway with the potential to change those numbers, and Michigan’s economy significantly.
This year, General Motors CEO Mary Barra announced the company plans to go all electric by 2035, and would open Wallace Battery Cell Innovation Center in Warren.
Ford announced it will open its new global battery center of excellence, Ford Ion Park, in Romulus next year.
What does this mean?
"I know lots of promises we have heard over the years. We have heard promises about electrification," said retired University of Michigan research professor John DeCicco.
His work in the past examined whether the energy it took to make batteries undid the gas savings. He says the batteries now win and something has changed.
"We really are at the beginning of an exciting transition to electrification here," he said.
American Battery Solutions Founder & CEO Subhash Dhar announced this week he is tripling the size of his innovation center in Orion Township. He has been working in battery technology since 1982.
"I think it's a revolution. It’s not hype," said Dhar.
So why is it happening now?
"Cost. Cost Cost. Those are the three most important elements of this equation," said Dhar.
He says 10 years ago, it cost 8 times more to make a lithium ion battery than it does today, making it possible for him to seek out businesses that want their trucks, buses, and delivery vehicles electric, for economic reasons.
"Climate change and all of that is just icing on the cake. I am talking about why this revolution is taking place," he said.
Anand Sankaran is the director of the Ford Ion Park- Battery Center of Excellence.
"By 2030, 40% of our global fleet will be made up of electrification," said Sankaran.
While many electric cars serve the luxury end of the market, he says the goal is to expand. "Work together to bring the costs down and continue to make these things affordable," said Sankaran.
And while Ford has made investments in plants outside Michigan, the collaborative learning lab opening next year in Romulus aims to help Ford lead the electrification revolution in Michigan.
"It will continue to be our home base. And we have tremendous capabilities in Michigan," he said.
As Michigan’s Chief Mobility Officer, Trevor Pawl is working to make sure Michigan remains a leader in this space.
"While there have been some big announcements outside the state we are in play for several others," said Pawl. "Michigan is now expected to produce over half of the Big Three's electric vehicles over the next 7 years. And that translates into our assembly plants leading the nation in making that transition over from gasoline powered to electric vehicles."
While there are challenges to overcome and there is competition from places like China, Metro Detroit is positioned to continue to lead in mobility.