Download Annual Reports as pdfs: 2010 Annual Report
2009 Annual Report

Planning for Michigan’s Electrifying Future

The Michigan Public Service Commission Collaborative Grant

Plug-in electric vehicles are being hailed as the next evolutionary step in transportation—an idea whose time has come. But what infrastructure changes will these new vehicles require? What supports must be put in place? What impact will electric vehicles have on the electric grid? And on the environment?

In 2008, the Michigan Public Service Commission (MPSC) offered a $5 million grant to the research collaborative best able to answer those questions. The PEV grant is part of a larger policy initiative aimed at preparing Michigan for electric vehicles - focusing on research, development and demonstrations needed to integrate PEVs into Michigan's electric grid.

The winning team was comprised of DTE Energy, General Motors and U-M research scientists from the College of Engineering, the Ross School of Business and the School of Natural Resources and the Environment. Oversight and support were provided by the Michigan Memorial Phoenix Energy Institute and the U-M Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI).

Some years earlier, UMTRI had responded to a similar challenge, in the form of an RFP from the Department of Energy, aimed at helping OEMs move plug-in electric vehicles closer to commercialization. For that project, UMTRI partnered with General Motors, essentially laying the foundation for future university-industry collaborations.

One member of the U-M contingent, Electrical Engineering professor Ian Hiskens, studies the impact of large numbers of electric vehicles on the distribution grid. "It's been my experience that some of the best questions, and the best research, come out of industrial problems," he observes. "So there's significant value in forging these linkages. In this case, the diversity of the players made it possible to extend our investigations beyond technology to include life cycle analysis, business aspects, and environmental outcomes. Consequently, the partnership has enabled us to seed future projects, build connections, and establish trust between organizations that are vital to the success of plug-in electric vehicles."

"Grid impact, consumer impact, and environmental impact" is how Joseph Malcoun, strategy and corporate development associate for DTE, summarizes the work of the past year. As he notes, "This unique collaboration helped develop strong content for the dialogue that has to happen in order for Michigan to take the lead in electric vehicle preparedness. The information generated was both informative and validating, and will be extremely important when we begin the work of educating consumers."

As part of their multifaceted efforts, university and corporate members of the MPSC grant partnership launched an annual event entitled "The Business of Plugging-In Conference." Now in the planning stages for its third iteration, the conference brings together leaders in the automotive industry for workshops, panel discussions and networking with technology providers and vendors. The aim is to promote dialogue and education among all stakeholders, with the ultimate goal of making Michigan a hub for plug-in electric vehicle-related business and innovation.

Pictured are (from left to right) Gerard Anderson, president and CEO, DTE Energy; Nigel Francis, executive vice president, Bright Automotive; Knut Simonsen, vice president strategy and corporate development, DTE Energy.