The United Auto Workers may be nervous about what the advent of electric vehicles will do to their jobs, but Electric Vehicle Transportation Association President Genevieve Cullen, an industry veteran, says she’s “very optimistic” about the future of electric vehicles.
At the recent MOVE: Mobility Reimagined 2023 conference in Austin, Texas this week, Cullen said there are three forces pushing electric vehicles forward simultaneously, driving increased adoption and expansion. These forces are “technology, politics and markets,” she told the audience in various sessions during the conference.
Auto industry unions appear concerned that the spread of electric vehicles will lead to them losing their jobs. As Slate recently put it: “Lawmakers have boosted government investment, consumer sales have increased, and manufacturers have begun rapidly introducing new product lines. But this future is not guaranteed to offer the same kind of middle-class jobs and robust benefits that unionized auto workers enjoy in Many states’ unions are also concerned that federal legislation passed by the last Congress under Pelosi incentivizes automakers to build plants in Republican-dominated states, which also happen to be more hostile to unions, reducing union power and reducing pressure. Fair wages and benefits for workers.
As Colin said at the MOVE 2023 conference, “The future is electric. The only questions are: How fast will we get there, and will we be ahead or behind the market?” She added that the answers depend on technology, politics and markets.
The technology part is battery developments, component developments, and access to the important minerals needed for them. This policy is answered in part by $3 trillion in these three big pieces of legislation that together work to rebuild and reinvent the nation’s infrastructure for a clean energy and net-zero economy resilient to the ravages of climate change.
The infrastructure bill alone provides $7.5 billion to build 500,000 electric vehicle charging stations across the country, but that’s only about a third of the number the country will need, according to Cullen’s research (cited by McKinsey).
Markets and work
Then there is the markets piece. Electric vehicle sales have soared this year, reaching 4 million electric vehicles on the road today, Cullen told the MOVE session audience, adding that Bloomberg New Energy Finance estimates the U.S. will reach 1 million electric vehicle sales this year. The Biden administration has set a goal of having 50% of new car sales by 2030 be electric vehicles. She said there are currently 87 models of electric vehicles available. Those sales could be boosted by the $7,500 tax credit for purchasing an electric vehicle that meets the IRA’s stringent American-made standards.
What, if any, concessions unions win that affect automakers’ commitments to electric vehicles will affect the timing, but they cannot stop the spread of these popular vehicles. Telva McGruder, GM’s executive director of body manufacturing engineering — who has been with the company for 29 years and previously served as chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer as well as head of North American facilities engineering — told me in an exclusive interview on the Electric Ladies Podcast that the various developments in… Cars are changing jobs and the communities in which a company operates. One of the main ways unions influence it is that a company needs talent to be “multi-variable” in skills today, to be nimble enough to adapt to changes as the industry evolves.
Cullen also pointed to the global supply chain as one of the factors that will push or break EV adoption in the U.S. These factors include EV and battery plants announced by automakers, including those that are pausing the UAW. She added that there is more than $200 billion in private sector investment by 2030 that the industry has already announced.
The policy piece goes beyond $3 trillion in funding and stimulus, Cullen explained. It also includes what Congress is doing about allowing repair and transportation, since those EVs need electrons and no one wants the massive electrification of our economy (not just because of EVs) to take down the grid, she said. Pressures resulting from extreme weather events also require strengthening the country’s energy system and making it more resilient.
Then there’s also how the Treasury Department designs rules around incentives in the IRA, infrastructure and chip laws, what the EPA does on greenhouse gas emissions regulations, and how courts respond to legal challenges to clean air. Law, orders and other legislation relating to electric vehicles and electricity.
The Biden administration also created the Fairness Act 40, which requires 40% of funding benefits to go to underserved communities, which could help EV charging stations proliferate and increase access to EVs more broadly.
Progress cannot be stopped
The UAW may be resisting the switch to electric vehicles, and/or pushing Union Joe to turn his joining them on the picket line — the first US president to do so — into pressuring automakers to build their new factories. In countries supporting the union. But electric vehicles are here to stay and grow.
This was certainly the message at MOVE 2023, including and especially from Colin from EDTA, who has been in this work for decades.
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