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Environmental Social Sciences Seminar with Elisabeth Gerber, “ Politics or Markets: What Drives EV Infrastructure?"

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Politics or Markets: What Drives EV Infrastructure?

As US local governments take on increasingly important roles in building out the public infrastructure required to support a large-scale shift to electric vehicles, what factors motivate their decisions? Are they primarily responsive to bottom-up pressures from within their jurisdictions (from rising EV ownership levels or pro-decarbonization public attitudes), or are they more responsive to top-down incentives and constraints from the state and national governments? We test hypotheses about the drivers of local government decision-making with data from a recent survey of US local government officials. We find that positive bottom-up pressures from local constituents, and positive top-down incentives from state governments, are the largest drivers of local government actions. Negative constituent pressures, federal government incentives, and state regulatory considerations are much less important. These results shed new light on the role of local governments in infrastructure investment decision-making and offer perspective on the prospects for the federal, state and local governments to encourage EV adoption through pro-active charging infrastructure investment.


Elisabeth R. Gerber is the Jack L. Walker Jr. Collegiate Professor of Public Policy at the Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy, Professor of Political Science (by courtesy), and Research Associate at the Center for Political Studies, Institute for Social Research, University of Michigan. She is co-PI of the Detroit Metro Area Communities Study and director of the Ford School’s Program in Practical Policy Engagement. She previously served as founding director of the Center for Local, State and Urban Policy (2001-2005) and as Associate Dean for Research and Policy Engagement at the Ford School (2016-2020).

Gerber’s research focuses on urban, regional and metropolitan policy, especially in the areas of sustainability, transportation, and water policy; climate adaptation; and community, workforce, and economic development. She is the author of The Populist Paradox: Interest Group Influence and the Promise of Direct Legislation (1999), co-author of Stealing the Initiative: How State Government Responds to Direct Democracy (2000), and co-editor of Voting at the Political Fault Line: California's Experiment with the Blanket Primary (2001) and Michigan at the Millennium (2003). Recent publications include Getting Bipartisan Support for Sea Level Rise Adaptation Policies” (Ocean and Coastal Management, 2020), "Public Perceptions of Collaborative Governance in Transportation Policy" (Political Research Quarterly, 2020), and The Challenge of Externally Generated Collaborative Governance: California’s Attempt at Regional Water Management” (Annual Review of Public Administration, 2020), all with Bruce E. Cain and Iris Hui.

Gerber was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2012 and previously served as vice-chair of the Regional Transit Authority of Southeast Michigan. She received her Ph.D. in Political Science from the University of Michigan.


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