About The Author: Steven M. Gursten is the Managing Partner at Michigan Auto Law. He supports Michigan’s Electric Vehicle Future and the movement towards a greener Detroit.
In 1970, there were 200 million cars in the world. Today, there are 253 million cars on the road in the United States alone. To contextualize these statistics, the world population was 3.7 billion people in 1970. The U.S. population is currently standing at 326 million. The difference between the number of people who had an automobile in the entire world in 1970 and who currently have an automobile in the United States today is quite surprising. This also confirms that automobiles are no longer a luxury, but rather a necessity. A car is a crucial component of everyday life.
Reducing the human environmental footprint on the world has become more of a concern than ever before, especially as carbon emissions from fossil fuels continue to rise. However, the key to reducing carbon emissions from automobiles isn’t to eliminate the use of cars entirely. Rather, Michigan’s answer to minimizing pollution that comes from automobiles is simple: ensuring its electric vehicle future.
Currently, there are 14,000 electric vehicles on the road in Michigan and 363 electric vehicle charging stations (and 979 charging outlets) in Michigan. In downtown Detroit alone, there are close to 90 electric vehicle charging stations and just over 30 in Midtown. Combined, Detroit and Midtown have more than one-third of the charging stations in the entire state. If Michigan is to ensure its state’s electric vehicle future, they will need to follow California’s lead in building the infrastructure to support electric vehicles. Currently, California has 330,000 electric vehicles on the road, which are supported by 15,777 electric charging stations.
An Electric Vehicle Supply Must Meet an Electric Vehicle Demand
In some ways, the concept of supply and demand is even more crucial for electric vehicles. Electric vehicles can run out of electricity in as few as 100 miles due to the presence of lithium-ion batteries in many electric vehicles. The issue that a short battery life can cause is exemplified by the following example: you would not be able to drive from Detroit to Grand Rapids on a full charge, because these two cities are 157 miles apart. Driving long distances is a serious hurdle that electric vehicle batteries need to clear to be a viable and reliable primary mode of transportation in Michigan. Ultimately, the number of electric vehicle charging stations needs to increase to get residents of Detroit to other parts of the state and out of the state. The same goes for people who travel more than 100 miles throughout the state.
Currently, there are a number of technology startups that are focused on improving the battery life of electric cars by using silicon-based anodes. There is great potential in the use of silicon that can bond with 25 times more lithium-ions in electric car batteries than graphite currently can. This may either increase the mileage an electric car can get in one charging session or reduce the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries. Producing silicon anodes in lithium-ion batteries could yield a prominent future for electric vehicles.
While the development of high-performance batteries could take time, installing more electric charging stations throughout Michigan is something we can do today. Electric vehicles can and should be an answer to replace the abundance of fossil-fueled cars that pollute our airways. Stakeholders just have to be strategic and thoughtful about how much they’re willing to rely on Silicon Valley’s battery research. If new battery research doesn’t pan out, improved statewide charging infrastructure could still save the electric car.