Alabama is charging up for electric vehicle evolution


From electric vehicle manufacturing to needed infrastructure, Alabama is getting charged up for the EV evolution.

Officials told economic developers at the Economic Development Association of Alabama 2022 Summer Conference this week that EVs 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 in EV production by 2025. Every automaker in Alabama has EV plans, though not all have revealed production details.

“Alabama is certainly positioning itself to take advantage of that,” Canfield said in an interview. “We see great job opportunities from this.”

Alabama is charging up for electric vehicle production and infrastructure from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

Mercedes-Benz, which led the way for automakers in Alabama, is the first to produce batteries and EVs on its assembly lines in Tuscaloosa County. Hyundai is investing $300 million and adding 200 jobs at its Montgomery plant to allow for production of a hybrid Santa Fe SUV and an all-electric Genesis GV70 SUV.

Honda has said it plans to go all-electric with its vehicles by 2040, but it’s not clear yet 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 gas 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 the 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 ready to get to work on EVs from Alabama NewsCenter on Vimeo.

EV production brings its own set of obstacles.

“We see that the challenge is going to be that we’re going to have to upscale our workforce,” Canfield said. “We’re going to have to ramp up our education because this is going to require a new set of skills in automotive production like we’ve never seen before. But it’s also going to create higher wage jobs as we move forward, and that’s all good news for Alabama.”

Then there are the automotive suppliers in the state.

Canfield said there are 210 parts in a traditional internal combustion engine that are either optional, altered or eliminated in electric versions of vehicles. But there are other parts that an EV requires which will need to be produced in close proximity to the automakers, which will create manufacturing opportunities.

Westwater Resources and its subsidiary, Alabama Graphite Products LLC, is constructing a first-of-its-kind graphite processing plant in Coosa County to produce material for EV batteries.

ADECA is finalizing plans to add multiple public charging stations for EVs in the state. (file)

In 2021, the University of Alabama, Alabama Power and Mercedes joined hands to create the Alabama Mobility and Power (AMP) Center, a research and development hub to support the burgeoning EV industry.

The Alabama Department of Economic and Community Affairs is overseeing the expansion of charging stations and critical EV infrastructure in the state.

ADECA Director Kenneth Boswell said $2 million is being spent this year on EV charging stations along Interstate 22. Another $79 million in federal funding for infrastructure will be spent on interstates and US highways and is awaiting the completion and approval of ADECA’s plan.

“We’re almost to the point where we hope it’s complete,” Boswell said. “We’ve submitted it to ALDOT for their actual stamp of approval. Once it finishes there, they will send it on to FHWA (Federal Highway Administration). Hopefully we will see that done within the next 10 working days. Our hope and desire is that it will get back to us so that we can submit it to the Department of Energy so we can get those funds released 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 lead to more Alabamians purchasing EVs because they will be less concerned about being able to recharge during trips.

“It does away with the range anxiety,” Boswell said. “I think it’s very vital that we have the plan so that we can actually implement the EV charging stations, so that those people that are contemplating buying a vehicle, that does not 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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