Can Electric Vehicles Save Detroit?

The first of billions of dollars from the federal government are making their way to local companies working on plug-in electric vehicles, which could help retain tens of thousands of U.S. jobs. The implications of plug-in electric vehicles for automakers, utilities, component suppliers, and national energy policy are some of the themes being addressed by The Business of Plugging In(SM) – presented by DTE Energy and Dow Kokam – taking place October 19-21 at the Motor City Hotel and Conference Center.

"With Michigan at a crucial crossroad in preparing for the future, plug-in electric vehicles present an incredible opportunity to address climate change, create jobs and capitalize on the new electric automotive industry," said Knut Simonsen, senior vice president of DTE Energy Resources. "This conference will foster a dialogue among utilities, automakers, venture capitalists, regulators, policy makers, universities and other stakeholders to identify and begin to address the many challenges in bringing plug-in electric vehicles to the market."

Former New York Gov. George E. Pataki, who oversaw the earliest stages of preparation for electric vehicles and electric cars while in office, will moderate the opening keynote discussion, examining the critical relationship between government, utilities and automakers in bringing about the electrification of the automobile.

Peter Darbee, Chief Executive Officer of Pacific Gas and Electric Co., and Jon Lauckner, Vice President, Global Program Management, General Motors Company will bring the utility and automotive perspectives on electric car.

"This really is a three-legged stool," Lauckner said. "There are three key players that have to come together to make plug-ins a success in the eyes of the customer. We can only be successful if we know and listen to each other’s issues and challenges and find solutions together."

Wednesday’s opening session, "When We Build it, Will They Come?" moderated by Dr. David Cole, Chairman, Center for Automotive Research, addresses the challenges of introducing new technologies into the market and how consumers will adopt and accept them. Joining Cole in the opening keynote discussion are Anthony Earley, Jr., Chairman & Chief Executive Officer of DTE Energy and Chairman of the Edison Electric Institute; William Ford, Jr., Executive Chairman, Ford Motor Co.; Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm and Ray Lane, Managing Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.

DTE Energy will host an entrepreneurs’ venture capital workshop on Monday, bringing together leading venture capital investors and entrepreneurs to share their views on venture investing and specific trends in plug-in electric vehicles, components and related infrastructure. Local entrepreneurs are welcome to register for the workshop, which is separate from the conference registration.

On Monday and Tuesday, conference attendees will have the opportunity to drive electric vehicles from Think, Bright Automotive, Myers Automotive, Miles Electric, Current Motors, and DTE Energy. This event is sponsored by DTE Energy.

General Motors is hosting a free public day from 1-5 p.m. on Wednesday to give area students and others interested in electric vehicles an opportunity to learn about the industry through a Passport to Knowledge. Space is limited and advanced registration is required.

This conference is made possible through a grant from the Michigan Public Service Commission to DTE Energy, a Detroit-based diversified energy company (, the University of Michigan (, and General Motors Company ( The Center for Automotive Research, based in Ann Arbor, Michigan is managing the conference.