Former Governor Granholm: Let's Get Past the Platitudes on EVs

By · December 04, 2012

Former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm, a Democrat, wasn’t likely to go home and take up knitting after her second term ended in early 2011. Before going to Harvard Law and becoming a politician, she competed in beauty pageants, appeared on the Dating Game, and sought a Hollywood career. Now she’s teaching at Berkeley and on Current TV, where she’s in your face about EV subsidies. Here’s the video:

Where's the Beef?

Granholm is smart and good on TV, but she really needs to get more specific about what kind of electric car subsidies she favors, and how they’d actually put more wheels on the road. Instead, she’s fairly vague and sticks to the crowd-pleasers. We won, she told her news audience. Get over it, Rush Limbaugh and Neil Cavuto. Electric cars put us “on a glide path to energy independence, to jobs, to national security, to reducing climate change.”

The governor was a huge champion of electric cars while in office (2003-2011). In 2009, she presided over the awarding of 12 federal battery manufacturing grants to her state worth $1.35 billion. In fact, the state was so blessed that others—especially California—cried favoritism. The full program was $2.4 billion, so companies with operations in Michigan (including the ill-fated A123) got more than half of the money.

Awarded Politically?

I think the battery awards were more political than strategic—Michigan was struggling economically, having lost 244,000 manufacturing jobs since 2005—and could have been better targeted. Actually, battery research might be more valuable than manufacturing plants, but the threat of losing lithium-ion business to Asia played well in Congress.

The A123 bankruptcy happened just before the election, during the debates actually. I’ve gone into why Mitt Romney didn’t seize on the issue, but he could have. His best argument would have been that the $2.4 billion federal program got ahead of the actual EV deployment—there is big battery capacity, but not yet many cars on the road. Some of that federally supported Michigan infrastructure is idle, and the big names like Dow Kokam and LG Chem aren’t doing much yet.

Too Many Batteries, Too Few Cars

According to industry veteran Menahem Anderman of the consulting firm Advanced Automotive Batteries, the industry will be capable of delivering 3,900 megawatts of EV batteries next year, but the actual demand will be for 17,000 cars and only 330 megawatts.

“The problem is simple,” reports Technology Review. “People aren’t buying enough electric cars, and most of those that are being sold contain batteries made by established battery makers in Asia. It’s still early days for electric vehicles, but the idle factories point to the difficulty of starting a new high-tech industry from scratch.”

Granholm, who drives a Volt, doesn’t want to hear that. Here's some more video:

The debate about EVs is over, Granholm said. Did you hear that we won the election? She cites the 18 companies that were attracted to the state, and the “potential,” not the actual existence, of 63,000 jobs (she said 40,000 jobs by 2020 back then). And she’s asking for the feds to up the ante with new subsidies for electric vehicles. “It’s not a permanent commitment—don’t get your pants in a wad,” Granholm said.

A Carbon Tax Makes Sense

The former governor doesn’t actually specify what kind of commitment she’s looking for, but it may be ramping up the $7,500 federal income tax credit to $10,000, and making it applicable to the consumer at the time of purchase. That provision was included in President Obama’s 2012 budget proposal, but it’s not likely to go anywhere in these cost-cutting times.

I like that idea well enough, but in common with Elon Musk I’d actually prefer to see a carbon tax, which would really jump-start the EV industry. But anything with the word “tax” in it is politically difficult, and would require a big prestige-risking commitment from President Obama, not to mention bully-pulpit holders like Jennifer Granholm.


· · 5 years ago

I don't see how taxing "Carbon" is going to encourage more EV usage. I'm paying 13 cents / KWH right now, and since NY State is one of Two states charging carbon taxes on electrical generation, my rates will be going up.

If there is no operating cost advantage for EV's, I don't see how more people will voluntarily buy them... But I'm surmising " voluntary " is not in your lexicon.

I have no problem with a $10,000 EV tax credit for a 20 kwh or bigger battery, since this would encourage bigger batteries (something that can't hurt the current 8% utilization of battery factories that taxpayers have already paid for),, and its not "Welfare for Elites", since the gov't is not giving the buyers anything, but merely stealing less from them on the very few years they actually purchase one of these vehicles.

· Anonymous (not verified) · 5 years ago

The reason people are not buying more electric cars is they are still too expensive and unless they are range extended cars they are impractical in most situations. Until American companies are willing to build a really light electric car from the ground up they will not be popular. A perfect example of the unfriendly environment for start up electric car makers in the U.S. is Aptera. Built in Carlsbad California, Aptera competed in the X-Prize and got nearly 200 miles on a charge at 65 mph and though they didn't win due to poorly balanced battery weight they were ready to be produced and applied for government assistance, which never came! They went out of business and were bought by the Chinese and are now going to be sold here in California, to the very people who were going to buy them before. The only difference is that now the money will go to the Chinese!

· Bret (not verified) · 5 years ago

This guy Menahem Anderman seems to be pretty bad at math. Based on November 2012 alone, EV/EREV sales would project to 72K vehicles next year, not 17K. That would total almost a Gigawatt hour of batteries, not 330 Megawatts.

Nissan Leaf - 1,539 = 18,468 = 443 Mwh
Chevy Volt - 1,519 = 18,228 = 292 Mwh
Pug-In Prius - 1,766 = 21,192 = 93 Mwh
C-Max Energy - 1,218 = 14,616 = 111 Mwh
Projected Total - 6,042 = 72,504 = 939 Mwh

That's not even counting Tesla, Fisker and hundreds of thousands of hydrids. And, with all of the new models coming out in 2013, EV/EREV sales could easily double from 2012. Higher battery sales are coming.

· Bret (not verified) · 5 years ago


I agree that converted steel ICE vehcles do not make ideal EVs. However, I believe the Aptera is too flimsy, ill-handling and unsafe for most drivers, especially for families and freeway commuters. I predict future EVs will be constructed more like the BMW i3. The aluminum chasis, carbon or plastic body panels and tall, narrow LRR tires will become the gold standard for pure EVs.

· Modern Marvel Fan (not verified) · 5 years ago

The best way to increase EV sales is to increase gasoline cost by either restricting its supply or taxing it... But neither is "politically realistic"...

· Tom Mac (not verified) · 5 years ago

The best way to increase EV sales is to increase gasoline cost by either restricting its supply or taxing it... But neither is "politically realistic"..."

Agreed, I think this is the best way as well.
Regarding Politically realistic:
I think this is what the conventional wisdom says.
However, I ask why not increase the tax?

Why is it not possible to raise the National Gasoline Tax?
It has been stagnant at 18 cents a gallon since 1993.

Do we think maintenance on the highways bridges tunnels in Federal Highway System have been stagnant?

Of course EV users are getting off easy as we are enjoying the infrastructure but many of us are not buying fuel.


· Callajero (not verified) · 5 years ago

I support raising gasoline tax to a dollar a gallon. It will kill several birds with one stone by encouraging less gasoline consumption, reducing GHG emissions, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and encouraging PEV purchases. It can even be used to reduce the US budget deficit!!! Why let BPs and Exxons take the humongous profits?

New to EVs? Start here

  1. Seven Things To Know About Buying a Plug-In Car
    A few simple tips before you visit the dealership.
  2. Incentives for Plug-in Hybrids and Electric Cars
    Take advantage of credits and rebates to reduce EV costs.
  3. Buying Your First Home EV Charger
    You'll want a home charger. Here's how to buy the right one.