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Gov. Whitmer, Congresspeople gather for ribbon cutting

Governor Gretchen Whitmer (center) and other representatives attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Our Next Energy in Novi.
State of Michigan
Governor Gretchen Whitmer (center) and other representatives attend a ribbon-cutting ceremony for Our Next Energy in Novi.

The Michigan governor, Congresspeople and other lawmakersgathered in Novi Thursday to cut the ribbon on an electric vehicle battery facility approved for over $200 million in state incentives.

The electric vehicle battery maker Our Next Energy (ONE) plans to spend around $1.6 billion on a new operation in Wayne County and other regional investment.

A spending bill signed last month that fed money into a fund for attracting large-scale projects freed up money for the incentives.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said she wants to restock the fund again.

“This is a critical component to our ability to build future industry here to secure our economy for future generations and make sure we’re on the cutting edge. If you’re not aggressive today, you may never recover,” she told news media at the event.

Critics of the program question whether the money would be better spent elsewhere. They’ve suggested the state should put the funds toward items like tax breaks, infrastructure, or social spending instead.

When asked, company founder Mujeeb Ijaz said the state’s commitment to renewable energy and its workforce made investing in Michigan appealing.

“The talent that we have access to in this state is really unlike any other. Automotive, ecosystem, supply chain, quality, manufacturing, bringing all of that together. We’re then not just one company, we get to leverage partners all around us. As we build this first factory, we’re going to need that,” he said.

Ijaz said his company hopes to have a prototype of a new battery meant to significantly extend vehicle range completed by the end of next year.

During the event, many speakers expressed their excitement at what the promised longer range and cheaper batteries would mean going forward.

Michelle Krebs is the executive analyst with Cox Automotive. She said those factors could set ONE apart.

“When we do surveys of people of why they do not buy EVs, the cost of the vehicle, which is largely made up of the cost of the battery, is the biggest hindrance, along with the range and the EV charging infrastructure,” she said.

Krebs said there’s been intense competition to host new battery plants like the one planned for Wayne County.

ONE said it has already acquired space for the operation in an existing building that’s being retrofitted for battery manufacturing. The company predicts that work will be done next year.

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Colin Jackson is the Capitol reporter for the Michigan Public Radio Network.
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