From electric vehicle manufacturing to the necessary infrastructure, Alabama is charging for the evolution of electric vehicles.
Officials told economic developers at the Alabama Economic Development Association’s 2022 summer conference this week that electric vehicles are no longer something in the future.
“EV is here,” Alabama Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield said.
Automakers have pledged to spend more than $330 billion on electric vehicle production by 2025. Every automaker in Alabama has electric vehicle plans, though not all have disclosed details of the production.
“Alabama is definitely positioning itself to take advantage of that,” Canfield said in an interview. “We see great employment opportunities from this.”
Alabama loads electric vehicle production and infrastructure from the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.
Mercedes-Benz, which paved the way for automakers in Alabama, is the first to produce batteries and electric vehicles at its Tuscaloosa County assembly lines. Hyundai is investing $300 million and creating 200 jobs at its Montgomery plant to enable production of a hybrid Santa Fe SUV and an all-electric Genesis GV70 SUV.
Honda has announced plans to go all-electric with its vehicles by 2040, but it’s not yet clear what that means for Honda Manufacturing of Alabama, its largest light-truck plant in the world. The Lincoln plant in Talladega County produces the Passport and Pilot SUVs, the Odyssey minivan and the Ridgeline pickup truck. It also produces the traditional V-6 gasoline engines that power Honda cars.
Mazda Toyota Manufacturing, a joint-venture assembly plant between Mazda and Toyota in Huntsville, produces the Mazda CX-50 and Toyota Corolla Cross, but no electric models yet.
Toyota also operates an engine plant in Huntsville, where it is investing $222 million to add four-cylinder engines, including a hybrid-electric version.
Alabama is ready to get to work on electric vehicles from the Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.
The production of electric vehicles brings its own set of obstacles.
“We see the challenge is going to be that we’re going to have to increase our workforce,” Canfield said. “We’re going to have to step up our education because it’s going to require a new skill set in car production like we’ve never seen before. But it will also create better-paying jobs as we move forward, and that’s good news for Alabama.
Then there are the state automotive suppliers.
Canfield said there are 210 parts in a traditional internal combustion engine that are either optional, modified or eliminated in electric versions of vehicles. But there are other parts that an electric vehicle needs that will need to be produced close to automakers, which will create manufacturing opportunities.
Westwater Resources and its subsidiary, Alabama Graphite Products LLC, are building a first-of-its-kind graphite processing plant in Coosa County to produce material for electric vehicle batteries.
In 2021, the University of Alabama, Alabama Power, and Mercedes partnered to create the Alabama Mobility and Power (AMP) Center, a research and development facility to support the burgeoning electric vehicle industry.
The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs oversees the expansion of charging stations and critical infrastructure for electric vehicles in the state.
ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said $2 million is being spent this year on electric vehicle charging stations along Interstate 22. Another $79 million in federal infrastructure funding will be spent on Interstate and U.S. highways and is awaiting completion and approval of the plan from ADECA.
“We’re almost at the point where we hope it’s complete,” Boswell said. “We submitted it to ALDOT for their genuine approval. Once completed, they will send it to the FHWA (Federal Highway Administration). Hopefully this will be done within the next 10 working days. Our hope and desire is that it comes back to us so that we can submit it to the Department of Energy so that we can get those funds paid to the State of Alabama.
Boswell said the plan seeks an additional $5 million for state and county highways. The hope is that the additional infrastructure will entice more Alabamians to purchase electric vehicles, as they will be less concerned about being able to charge while traveling.
“It eliminates range anxiety,” Boswell said. “I think it’s very important that we have the plan so that we can actually implement electric vehicle charging stations, so that people who are considering buying a vehicle, that doesn’t come into play It does not prohibit trade for the state.
Learn more about Alabama Power’s economic and community development initiatives at AmazingAlabama.com.
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