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Detroit’s Electric Future is Closer than Expected

With Detroit being the Motor City and more and more automakers focusing on electric vehicle production, it’s no surprise that many people talk about the future of Detroit being electric. What many people may not realize, however, is that Detroit’s shift towards being the EV epicenter of the country is closer than they may have thought. This article briefly looks at some of the EV production that has taken place, and is set to take place, in the Motor City and why Detroit could be the ideal spot for EV research and production.

It may come as news to some locals, but Detroit already got its feet wet in the realm of EV’s with the Tesla Roadster. Produced from 2008-2012, the Tesla Roadster originally featured a troublesome two-speed gearbox that was prone to failure, leaving the car stuck on the side of the road. This all changed when George Clooney, who owned a Roadster, publicly complained to Tesla about the faulty gearbox that frequently left him broken-down. It’s one thing when you have a mechanical problem with the vehicle you’re producing, but when a world-famous celebrity sheds light on the issue, it’s time to find a solution – and fast!

To fix their gearbox problem, Tesla turned to the BorgWarner engineers in Auburn Hills. The engineers were able to design a new single-speed transmission on the fly to replace the old, faulty model initially produced in the Roadster. The speed and level of quality of which the Detroit-area engineers were able to remedy the problem was the first indicator to the EV market that Detroit was ready for the electric future.

More recently, as I’ve discussed in some of my other articles, new EV startup Rivian Automotive has also decided to headquarter itself in the metro Detroit area. As the startup was still in its earliest stages of development, the executives frequently found themselves in the Detroit area as they met with suppliers, distributors, manufacturers, and other entities necessary for the eventual production and distribution of Rivian’s vehicles. With a massive logistics and supply base ready for the automotive industry already in place in Detroit, and with companies such as Delphi Technologies looking to move the EV components they’ve developed in large economies of scale, it’s no wonder why EV startups are looking at Detroit to call home. Further, due to the fear of passing up on what could be “the next Tesla” and not wanting to miss out on the next big thing, Detroit-based suppliers have been willing to absorb some of the production costs affiliated with EV production in an effort to incentivize startups to come to the area. And, luckily for Detroit, it’s starting to work.

Aside from Tesla’s brief run with Detroit engineering and Rivian Automotive, another contender entered the realm of Detroit EV’s within the last year. Originally from Hobart, N.Y., Bollinger Motors made the move to Detroit last Fall and has been steadily gaining traction ever since. It’s been about two years since Bollinger introduced the boxy B1, which the company calls a sport-utility truck, at the Classic Car Club of Manhattan. Since then, the company has also started conceptualizing and planning for the B2, a four-door version of the B1, as well as an electric pickup. Although they still need to secure $100 million in order to finish their engineering work and enter the production phase, Bollinger has received their manufacturer’s plates from the state, meaning they’re able to test vehicles on the road and are one step closer to hitting the pavement for good. By 2020, the company expects to grow from its 17 full-time employees to roughly 100 full-time employees in the Detroit area.

Overall, there could be a lot of change headed for Detroit in the next few years. Detroit-based engineers, manufacturers and suppliers are calling on EV startups around the country, and the startups are listening. It’s not out of the question that more startups may form and move to Detroit to take advantage of the pre-existing production and distribution platforms. In a short amount of time, we very well may see a shift from the Motor City to the Electric City – and that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

At Holbrook Auto Parts, we’re excited to see these electric startups come to the Detroit area. Not only does it provide a learning opportunity for the industry as we all become more familiar with what goes into the production of EV’s, but this shift could mean a second wind for the city’s comeback. We’ve seen Detroit change and improve so much over the past years, and having more companies, jobs, and money come to the city instills more hope that the city will continue to grow.

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