The latest sign of a troubled electric vehicle industry is emerging in the Motor City, where residents in the Milwaukee Junction neighborhood are pushing back on a planned Fortescue WAE battery plant.

Fortescue, a global supplier of electric vehicle components including batteries and fast chargers, in January celebrated an incentive deal inked with Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s administration that includes more than $20 million in taxpayer subsidies.

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The $210 million battery plant is expected to create 600 jobs with a below-average annual wage of $45,760, according to an announcement from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation.

“Fortescue’s expansion in Michigan and so many of the other investments we are competing for and winning are helping us make communities across our state better places to live, work, and invest,” Whitmer said in January. “Let’s keep our foot on the accelerator and keep delivering on the issues that make a real difference in people’s lives so anyone can ‘make it’ in Michigan.”

While Fortescue CEO Mark Hutchinson promised the plant “will breathe fresh life into the birthplace of the automotive industry,” locals who just learned about the plans from the MEDC want to pump the brakes.

“It’s out of order,” Theo Pride, community organizer for the Detroit People’s Platform, told Crain’s Detroit Business. “Residents don’t even know that an EV battery plant is coming to their neighborhood. We all know the environmental issues with battery manufacturing or manufacturing in general.”

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The People’s Platform contends the project should trigger a community benefits ordinance approved by voters in 2016 that requires developers to “proactively engage” the community to address concerns about negative impacts, and to form a neighborhood advisory council to work through them.

The ordinance applies to a project if it “is $75 million or more in value, receives $1 million or more in property tax abatements or receives $1 million or more in value of city land sale or transfer,” according to Crain’s.

An MEDC memo shows the project is expected to cost nearly triple that threshold, and was approved for a $7.7 million Industrial Facilities Tax Abatement and $4.2 million in Brownfield Tax Incentive Financing.

City officials told Crain’s the community benefits ordinance doesn’t apply, but wouldn’t explain why.

“We are still waiting on Fortescue to formally submit their CBO form (to the planning and development department), however, based on the economic development team’s conversations with the company, the development will not trigger a Tier 1 CBO,” spokesman John Roach wrote in an email to Crain’s.

Pride points to fires at General Motors’ Factory Zero to highlight the risks EV manufacturing poses to the community, and argues that avoiding the ordinance removes any leverage locals have to address them.

“Part of the (community benefits ordinance) is it gives the community power at the negotiating table,” he said. “This takes that away from residents.”

The concerns in Milwaukee Junction are only the latest facing the EV industry at a time when fewer Americans are interested in buying an electric vehicle, with or without help from taxpayers.

A Gallup poll released this week shows 48% of the 1,016 adults surveyed across all 50 states and the District of Columbia last month said they would not buy an electric vehicle, a figure that’s up 7% from 2023.

The percentage who said they might consider buying an EV in the future also declined from 43% in 2023 to 35% in March.

“The findings conform with recent decisions by some auto companies to reduce their electric-vehicle investments after EV market growth has fallen short of expectations,” Gallop reports. “Weak consumer demand for the vehicles has also compelled the Biden administration to issue a less-aggressive schedule of emission-reduction targets for auto companies.”

There’s also cybersecurity concerns with charging stations, China flooding the market, and President Biden’s colliding objectives: his goal of EVs comprising 60% of new vehicle production by 2030, and the “strongest-ever pollution standards for cars” announced last month.

States like Michigan, North Carolina, and others are following Biden’s lead, going all-in on EVs with billions in taxpayer cash.

Yet Gallup reports that the percentage of Americans “seriously considering buying” an EV went from 12% last year to 9% this year. Only one in six own or are seriously considering buying.

“Unless that market expands greatly in the next few years, it is unlikely auto companies doing business in the U.S. will be able to meet the emissions targets laid out by the Biden administration,” according to the pollster. “Those targets may need to be relaxed further if Biden is reelected, or they may be done away with under a second Trump administration.”