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Michigan governor looks to electric cars

  • Story Highlights
  • Gov. Jennifer Granholm says auto industry's future is electric
  • University of Michigan expert agrees Big Three need to move to electric cars
  • Public opinion on energy conservation is pushing the move, expert says
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(CNN) -- The future of Detroit is electric cars, the governor of Michigan declared in an opinion piece on Newsweek's Web site.

The Chevy Volt is one of the electric cars being developed by Michigan's auto industry.

The Chevy Volt is one of the electric cars being developed by Michigan's auto industry.

"In Michigan, we are doing everything we can to become the home of this new electric auto industry -- and to the jobs this industry will create," wrote Gov. Jennifer Granholm. "Again, the road to a stronger future for our country will begin in Michigan."

She said that for automakers, replacing the 100-year-old internal-combustion engine is both "revolutionary and daunting."

Ann Marie Sastry, director of the energy systems engineering program at the University of Michigan, said the industry will have to take risks and government support will be essential.

"Gov. Granholm is doing exactly what we all hope our elected officials will do -- she is supporting partnerships and growth in critical economic areas," Sastry said. "She's enunciated a vision for clean vehicles that builds our regional economy and provides global, sustainable transportation solutions.

"We understand that these investments will take time to reach profitability, but these are hard problems, and they are worth investment and risk. The risk of doing nothing is much, much greater. I'm glad she is making the case for Michigan."

Granholm said all of Detroit's Big Three automakers -- General Motors, Ford and Chrysler -- are working on electric vehicles.

"General Motors plans to make lithium-ion battery packs to power the Chevy Volt, which is expected to earn a fuel-economy rating of more than 100 mpg," she wrote. "... As Ford celebrates the sale of the 100,000th hybrid Escape, it is preparing for the introduction of a full line of new hybrid and plug-in hybrid vehicles. Chrysler, too, is electrifying its product lines."

Sastry said she couldn't be more delighted with GM's plans for the Volt as a "truly mass-marketed electrified drive train using electric technology."

In 2008, GM sold 14,439 hybrid vehicles, according to a statement from the company.

"These companies are serious about transforming themselves and transforming us into a nation less reliant on foreign oil," Granholm wrote.

Sastry said public opinion toward energy conservation is a major factor in the companies being willing to take the risk of creating the new types of cars.

"These very large companies are placing a bet on the future in no small measure because of the American public's change in attitude toward it," she said.

In her commentary, Granholm referred to President Barack Obama's plan, announced in February, to direct $2 billion from the economic stimulus package into technology aimed at putting 1 million American-made, plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015.

Sastry said it's hard to predict when something of that scale will happen -- many industry experts disagree on an exact time -- but it will happen.

"Keep in mind, several industries have to work together to make this happen," she said.

All About Cars and Car DesignDetroitMichiganJennifer Granholm

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