While California represents the majority of EV sales in the US, the American South is the auto manufacturing powerhouse of the country. Yet, southern states have been among the slowest to adopt electric vehicles. That needs to change, argues Gerald Allen, a Republican member of the Alabama State Senate.
In an opinion piece on AL.com, Allen writes:
To cement our reputation as a forward-leaning automotive leader, we must prepare for the future of electric vehicles, production of electric vehicle parts, and ensure the necessary EV infrastructure is in place to be competitive for generations.
Doing so will show that our state supports this burgeoning sector of automotive manufacturing and help recruit even more of these projects that will provide numerous high-paying jobs and produce significant economic benefits.
Allen explains that Alabama-based automakers and suppliers produced nearly 1.6 million engines in 2018 and created over 40,000 automotive manufacturing jobs. Alabama ranks as the number three auto exporting state in the country. Exports of Alabama-made vehicles and parts totaled $7.5 billion in 2018.
To keep this economic boon going, Alabama needs to supports electric cars, according to Allen.
Now, as we continue toward a 21st-century transportation system and economy, we must acknowledge — and prepare for — the electric vehicle wave that is coming.
Alabama is home to auto manufacturing for Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, and Mazda. But the state’s most notable car producer is arguably Mercedes-Benz, which opened an assembly plant in Tuscaloosa County in 1993.
In 2018, Mercedes-Benz broke ground in Bibb County to build a plant producing batteries for the all-electric EQ brand of Mercedes vehicles and plug-in hybrids. The new battery production facility is near the existing Mercedes-Benz plant in Tuscaloosa. That project represents an investment of more than a billion dollars in the local economy.
Allen underscores that it’s not just a matter of building EVs. He wants Alabamians to drive battery-electric vehicles.
The Rebuild Alabama Infrastructure Plan, approved in 2019, will help expand the state’s EV charging infrastructure. Alabama’s 2020 state budget includes $2 million to educate the public about the benefits of EVs.
Alabama is not the only southern state to jump on the EV bandwagon. Georgia endeavors to become a world capital for electric-vehicle battery production.
In November 2019, Volkswagen broke ground on its Tennessee plant that will produce two battery-powered cars. Nissan makes the Leaf in Smyrna, Tennessee. Last year, BMW announced that it was doubling its battery production capacity to support the production of plug-in hybrid versions of its X3 and X5 SUVs at its South Carolina factory.
Meanwhile, back in Germany, Mercedes-Benz this week announced that it is also investing more than $1 billion to create a global battery production network. The network will consist of nine battery factories at seven locations in Europe, Asia, and North America.
Mercedes-Benz’s wholly owned subsidiary Accumotive in Kamenz, Germany, is the hub and the home to the company’s battery “competence center.” But Alabama is a vital part of that international network of battery production.
Jörg Burzer, a director of supply chain management at Mercedes-Benz, said:
After Kamenz, Bangkok, and Beijing, the next location to soon start battery production will be Jawor in Poland, followed by plants around Stuttgart as well as Tuscaloosa in the US.
Each new plant will benefit from the experience of the other plants. Our battery production network is well prepared for the future of mobility.
The stereotype of EVs as the exclusive province of California liberals is quickly fading.
Battery-electric technology is being pursued by nearly every automaker, with a significant impact on auto production, the economy, and jobs — from Fremont and Detroit to Tuscaloosa and Chattanooga.
You know that the tide is shifting when a Republican politician from Alabama is openly touting EVs.
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