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Michiganders disagree on what kind of presidential leadership on electric vehicles they would like to see

Bruce Westlake standing next to the two electric vehicles in his garage.<br/><br/>
Steve Carmody
Michigan Public
Bruce Westlake standing next to the two electric vehicles in his garage.

2024 is shaping up to be a pivotal year for the future of Electric Vehicles.

Sales are rising, but so is the pushback.

The future of electric vehicles in Michigan may depend on how the nation’s president decides to lead on the issue.

Bruce Westlake is the president of the Eastern Michigan Electric Automobile Association. The two electric cars in Westlake’s garage are the sixth and seventh he and his wife have owned.

Westlake laughs when asked if he’s something of the electric vehicle evangelist. Westlake would like to see a president support policies that boost EVs.

“The numbers are there. There’s no way of denying them,” said Westlake, “The more people see of other people driving electric vehicles…being comfortable with them. The more transition happens.”

2023 was a good year for Electric Vehicles. According to Kelley Blue Book, more than a million were sold in the U.S., the most ever. But the growth of EV sales is slowing. Significantly.

Slowing growth in the EV market has auto makers scaling back plans for new manufacturing and relying more on hybrid vehicle sales.

During a conference call for reporters in January, GM CEO Mary Barra acknowledged concerns about EV sales.

“We will build to demand,” said Barra, “And we are encouraged that many third-party forecasts have US EV deliveries rising from about 7% of the industry in 23 to at least 10% in 2024, which would mean another year of record EV sales.”

But auto dealers are worried.

Bill Golling’s family has been selling cars in southeast Michigan for more than half a century. His second-floor office oversees the showroom floor of his Bloomfield Hills dealership.

Recently, he joined more than four thousand auto dealers from across the country in a letter urging the federal government to ease rules pressing for greater electric vehicle sales.

Golling says he likes EVs, but they are not moving off the lot quickly enough.

“The reality of the market it still comes down to what will the customer do,” said Golling, “And that’s really what the letter and everything else being the voice of the customer to government “’you’re setting unreal expectations.’”

Golling says price and driving range remain prime issues for customers who are hesitant to buy an EV. He fears demand for electric vehicles is lagging too far behind proposed emissions standards that would effectively require two thirds of U.S. vehicle sales to be electric by 2032.

Golling says he wants a president who’ll “tap the brakes.”

Tim Nash is an emeritus economics professor at Northwood University in Midland. He’s the author of a new study that shows more potential hurdles ahead for EV’s. Nash’s report cites supply chain and electric grid capacity as obstacles to ramping up EV sales.

And as a free-market economist, Nash would like to see federal tax credits for EVs, which range from $3,700 to $7,500, be scaled back or eliminated entirely.

“Let’s let the market determine how much we produce and when we produce it,” said Nash.

While many question the logic of investing in electric vehicles, others see it as not only the future, but their future.

“We all are continuing our brake unit…make sure you have your safety glasses On,” said high school students listen to a teacher at Plymouth-Canton’s auto shop class. Among the cars students are working on is an electric vehicle.

High school senior Charlie Barker says he’s more interested in learning how to work on an EV than internal combustion engine.

“Because it’s going to be the future of cars. I believe,” said Barker, “Gas is slowly going to run out eventually so we’re have to turn to electricity. Sooner than later.”

At the moment, students only have one EV car to work on. But the school plans to acquire more electric vehicles to meet growing demand among students.

Copyright 2024 Michigan Public. To see more, visit Michigan Public.

Steve Carmody has been a reporter for Michigan Radio since 2005. Steve previously worked at public radio and television stations in Florida, Oklahoma and Kentucky, and also has extensive experience in commercial broadcasting. During his two and a half decades in broadcasting, Steve has won numerous awards, including accolades from the Associated Press and Radio and Television News Directors Association. Away from the broadcast booth, Steve is an avid reader and movie fanatic. Q&A