Electrifying Mobility
in the Great Lakes Region:
from EVs to Green Batteries
Apr 29 Event Summary

By Laura Asiala

On Thursday, April 29, 2021 3:30pm-4:45pm, the Council of the Great Lakes Region hosted a virtual session of the Great Lakes Economic Forum for a discussion with experts on the challenges and opportunities electrification of mobility represents to the Great Lakes Region–and beyond.

Electric Vehicles (EVs), coupled with the clean energy transition, hold the promise of greening mobility and achieving a zero-emissions vehicle future in the binational Great Lakes region, the home for the global automotive industry, representing a significant economic and environmental opportunity for the region and an important response to the ambitious climate change and sustainability priorities outlined in the new Roadmap for a Renewed U.S.-Canada Partnership. However, there are major policy, infrastructure, and supply chain implications that must be considered on a regional, cross-border basis, including the responsible sourcing, manufacturing, use, and recycling of next generation batteries that are critical for the operation of EVs. Four industries experts joined the virtual discussion.

Watch the full conversation here. If you prefer to fast forward to specific speakers, you will find Cynthia Williams at 0:30; Tom Van Heeke at 13:45; Steve Christensen at 25:00, and the panel discussion, including Greg Keoleian beginning at 42:00.


Cynthia Williams, Global Director, Sustainability, Homologation and Compliance at Ford Motor Company

Thomas Van Heeke, Policy Lead, Mobility and Climate Change at General Motors

Steve Christensen, Executive Director at the Responsible Battery Coalition

Gregory Keoleian, Ph.D. Peter M. Wege Endowed Professor of Sustainable Systems; Director, Center for Sustainable Systems at the University of Michigan

The discussion included a summary of the “Green Principles” for managing the full lifecycle of electric vehicle (EV) batteries to help guide environmentally responsible EV battery manufacturing, use and end-of-life management. The principles, developed by researchers at the University of Michigan’s School for Environment and Sustainability under sponsorship from the Responsible Battery Coalition, represent a comprehensive set of recommendations to guide mobile battery deployment and technological development from an environmental perspective. Additional research focuses on application of the principles for end users.

About the Speakers

Cynthia Williams is the Global Director, Sustainability, Homologation and Compliance at Ford Motor Company.

Cynthia is responsible for sustainable business plans and policies, environmental negotiations with regulatory bodies around the world, reporting on the company’s environmental and social performance, and engaging with non-government organizations and other external stakeholders. Previously Cynthia was Assistant Director, Global Automotive Safety Office. In this position she has been responsible for leading the safety governance process, including identifying, analyzing and making recommendations on potential safety and compliance concerns. She also has been responsible for developing and coordinating responses to all government agency investigations. Since joining Ford in 1992, as part of the Ford College Graduate Program in the Automotive Emissions and Fuel Economy Office, Cynthia has held several positions, which include Ford’s Sustainability, Environment and Safety Director in Asia Pacific, where she was responsible for environment and safety strategy, policy and performance and assuring that Ford Asia Pacific meets or exceeds all safety and environmental regulations. Cynthia is currently on the Board of Directors for CALSTART and VELOZ, nonprofit organizations working to develop and promote clean, efficient transportation solutions.  Cynthia will also serve on the Michigan Governor’s Council on Climate Solutions. 

Tom Van Heeke is Policy Lead for Mobility and Climate Change at General Motors.

Tom is responsible for policy considerations related to urban mobility and the decarbonization of transportation. He has experience analyzing and advocating for forward-thinking transportation and climate policy across sectors, including as a fiscal and policy analyst for the California State Legislature and as a researcher at eHe beggFrontier Group, an advocacy-oriented think tank, where he researched and wrote extensively on transportation and environmental matters. He and his work have been quoted and featured by media outlets including the New York Times, the Associated Press,and E&E News. Tom has also been called to present and testify before state legislatures on several occasions.  Tom graduated with honors from Grinnell College and holds a Master of Public Policy degree from the University of Michigan’s Gerald R. Ford School of Public Policy. He lives in Detroit’s West Village neighborhood.

Steve Christensen is the Executive Director of the Responsible Battery Coalition.

Steve brings deep public and private sector experience to the RBC to achieve their mission through impactful multi-stakeholder partnerships and programs. He has worked seamlessly across government, academia and business to both improve communication on complex issues and to fundamentally address them. As a senior official at the USDA, Steve was responsible for working closely with the White House, Congress, and stakeholders to develop science-based public policy to support U.S. agriculture. Since his time at USDA Steve has advised numerous industry organizations and corporate clients, among them some of the world’s leading commodity groups, chemical manufacturers and energy providers. Steve is a graduate of Harvard University’s JFK School of Government and earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from the University of California, Riverside

Gregory Keoleian, Ph.D., is the Peter M. Wege Endowed Professor of Sustainable Systems and Director, Center for Sustainable Systems, at the University of Michigan

Greg co-founded and serves as director of the Center for Sustainable Systems. His research focuses on the development and application of life cycle models and metrics to enhance the sustainability of products and technology. He has pioneered new life cycle design, cost analysis, and optimization methods and has been analyzing automotive technology for over twenty five years including EVs, connected and automated vehicles, and even flying cars. Other systems studied include renewable energy systems such as wind farms, photovoltaics and willow biomass electricity, buildings and infrastructure, information technology, food and agricultural systems, household appliances, and packaging alternatives. Greg currently teaches interdisciplinary graduate courses on Sustainable Energy Systems and Industrial Ecology and co-directs the Engineering Sustainable Systems Dual Degree Program and served on the UM President’s Commission on Carbon Neutrality.

Banner image: CHUTTERSNAP on Unsplash

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