The future is electric: 2021 predictions for Midwest electric transportation businesses

Good Tuesday afternoon, everyone. With the new year comes a new round of trend predictions. Although 2020 threw us for a loop and proved ANYthing is possible and the future truly is unpredictable, plenty of people are offering 2021 forecasts.

Many cleantech predictions involve major growth for hydrogen technologies. But hands down, the most frequent prediction is that electric transportation technology is going to have a banner year and drive the transition away from fossil fuel-powered vehicles. New data released today shows that in 2020, Norway’s share of fully electric vehicle sales topped the 50% mark for the first time, growing to 54% from the previous year’s 46%. That outpaces all other countries but is considered a harbinger of what others should anticipate soon.

Electric vehicle charging photo by Matthew Staver / NREL

The Midwest is expected to significantly influence America’s impending transportation electrification surge due to the number of EV-related businesses located here. Startups Bollinger Motors and Rivian in Michigan and Lordstown Motors in Ohio join Detroit’s Big 3 automakers in manufacturing consumer EVs. Most of them expect to release inaugural models (or newly redesigned legacy models) by year’s end.

The emerging tech isn’t solely for passenger vehicles. Workhorse Group in Ohio is manufacturing electric delivery and utility vehicles. May Mobility in Ann Arbor, Michigan, is among the numerous businesses focused on clean and autonomous innovations for public transit. Chicago-based Veo designs dockless, battery-electric scooters and bikes for shared mobility programs.

Image via May Mobility.

The Midwest’s reach goes beyond manufacturing whole electric vehicles. A slew of EV components and related technologies are developed here as well, including software and lithium-ion batteries. Many advanced batteries for EVs and other devices are being created in Illinois, including at NanoGraf Technologies. Electrada in Cincinnati and ZEF Energy in Minneapolis develop EV charging infrastructure.

Many signs point to 2021 being a tipping point for EV technologies and the sector fueling America’s economic recovery, especially in the Midwest. Expect to see even more EV-related startups appear as the sector becomes mainstream and autonomous vehicle development matures. You will find plenty of coverage of the vehicle electrification trend — and other trends that crop up — in Centered throughout the year.

Now, on to today’s headlines.

🌊 WATER: Columbus, Ohio’s hydroelectric plant has been offline for about three years, but it will begin to produce power again by mid-2023, reports The Columbus Dispatch. The city council approved using $15.3 million in bond money to refurbish the deteriorated plant and upgrade it with state-of-the-art technology.

🌞 SOLAR: Minnesota’s Xcel Energy released a request for proposals for 500MW of new solar power technologies that would connect to its existing infrastructure at the coal-fired Sherco Power Plant. Proposals are due Feb. 2.

⚙️ MANUFACTURING: The National Institute of Standards and Technology awarded $4 million to four research institutions, including Purdue University, to support advancements in metal-based additive manufacturing, or 3D printing. Metals-based 3D printing is said to reduce energy intensity and material waste while speeding product time to market.

📈 INVESTMENT: The Polsky Center for Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the University of Chicago invested $150,000 in NanoPattern Technologies, a startup working on quantum dot ink technologies for consumer electronics screens that will reduce energy consumption.


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Centered is a publication of the Energy News Network, in partnership with the Illinois Science and Energy Innovation Foundation and mHUB.