jennifer granholm with the smart ed and tesla roadster
Gov. Granholm learns about plug-in vehicles – Click above for high-res image gallery

Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm visited the 2010 Business of Plugging In conference in downtown Detroit yesterday, capping her trip with a short drive in a white 2011 Chevrolet Volt. She also stopped and learned about a number of the vehicles on display – the Ford Focus EV, the Smart ED, the Mini E and more – before giving her assessment that these early plug-in vehicles represent the cusp of something very big.:
In the next wave, you're going to be able to drive into your home and plug in your vehicle and that battery is going to be an assist for you to power your home. Perhaps you will be powering your car through solar panels on your roof or the small wind system that's attached to the side of your house and so you will be completely free of oil.
Granholm, whose administration has worked hard to bring companies to the state that will move the auto industry from its traditional petroleum-powered roots to one that plays well with electrons, said she hopes the trend continues once a new governor takes power early next year (she is term-limited out after serving for eight years):
It had better continue on beyond our administration. We've got 17 companies in Michigan just in the past year that are coming to do the infrastructure for the battery. So we've got those who are supplying the electrolytes, the cells, the anode, the cathode, the separators – all of that ecosystem of a battery is happening in Michigan. Those 17 companies would not have been here, frankly, but for the state and federal incentives. But now that they're here and they've made the investments in the technology and the equipment, they're going to stay and for us, in the next ten years, those 17 companies are projected to create 63,000 jobs.
(This post continues after the jump.)

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In part because of her involvement with these companies, Granholm said she understands the challenges for getting plug-in vehicles into people's driveways:
Price, initially, is going to be a barrier for many and that's why I think it's critical that the federal government continue with the incentives so you can continue with the consumer demand up front. By 2015, 2016, the battery makers are even suggesting that their price point will be parallel to that of the internal combustion engine.
The state of Michigan, though, does not have a statewide plug-in vehicle incentive for individual vehicle buyers (it does have a tight budget, though, which might explains why this is). Another challenge for drivers will be to figure out where to get a quick charge. Granholm, who had just stepped out of the Volt, praised the car and how it eliminated that worry for drivers:
I think what GM has done with the Volt in having that extended range has really propelled the acceptance of the electric vehicle and I think it will propel it forward and eliminate that range anxiety at the same time as they are working on the next generation which will allow a quicker charge.