Having a car guy in the White House is exciting to car designer-turned-state Sen. Mallory McMorrow, who knows what it’ll take to base the electric vehicle revolution in Michigan.
ROYAL OAK, Mich.—Before she was state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D-Royal Oak), she was a car designer for Mazda. That perspective and experience is part of what gives McMorrow her focus today on making Michigan to electric vehicles what it was to the internal combustion engine.
“My biggest push for the past two and a half years has been around economic development and electric vehicles,” she told The ‘Gander. “I just look at this as such an opportunity for Michigan to lead not only the country, but the world, in this space.”
And Michigan is well on its way. The day before Ford publicly unveiled its new electric pickup truck, the F-150 Lightning, President Joe Biden came to Dearborn to give it a test drive. His enthusiasm for cars brought a political, governmental focus on the exciting developments in electric vehicles. The event was framed as setting up Michigan’s automakers to be the builders of the future.
To do that, Michigan will have to invest both in physical projects like setting up charging stations and in projects to attract and retain talented workers, McMorrow says. She’s concerned that, in terms of average age, Michigan is a pretty old state. That reflects a trend of Michiganders leaving the state for a different lifestyle elsewhere.
Researchers are still trying to determine the reasons for the brain drain, but what is known is the average person leaving Michigan is likely to have a college degree and be 30 years old or younger—exactly the kind of people needed for long-term economic growth in the state. Though this is far from the worst brain drain Michigan has seen in the last few decades, it poses problems for switching on the electric car economy. McMorrow hopes to find solutions to the issues as the industry ramps up for electrification.
And, of course, there is a lot of work yet left to accomplish before Americans are comfortable adopting electric vehicles, especially in terms of charging infrastructure. But McMorrow thinks Biden is the person who can get that done.
The Car-Guy-in-Chief Championing EVs
President Biden’s support comes from his long-standing relationship with unions, manufacturing, and the simple fact that he’s a self-professed “car guy.”
“He’s a car guy, and it’s exciting to have a car guy in the White House. I’m glad they let him drive the truck,” said McMorrow. “That’s the focus that we need. I’m excited to have an administration in the White House who feels the way I do, which is: We know we can make cars and trucks better than anybody else; we need to be able to make what’s next, too.”
To that end, Biden’s American Jobs Plan would put Americans to work building the infrastructure needed for the wave of electric cars McMorrow hopes to inspire. Without convenient charging stations, getting Americans to shift to electric will be a challenge. Citing the rarity of stations, demand at those stations, and frustrations over broken equipment, the Wall Street Journal reported that a widespread transition away from gas power is unlikely without some major infrastructure overhauls.
That doesn’t mean Biden hasn’t gotten the ball rolling. During his presidency, he hopes to replace the entire vehicle fleet of the federal government with EVs, which may help give those charging stations the business they need while the rest of the nation slowly transitions.
That’s exactly what’s needed to start the discussions McMorrow knows need to happen.
“[Electrification] requires a very intentional focus and investment on not only the product side of things, but on electric vehicle chargers and infrastructure,” she explained. “How do we connect all these things? And do [autonomous] vehicles talk to the road or to each other? And what do we need to do to put that in place so Michigan can be the model the rest of the county follows?”
Those are questions that the industry will need to address to build the future of transportation. But the process is already on the road.