The race to build EVs in the US is heating up as new rounds of investment pour out of Washington. The workers in the former center of the auto industry fear being left behind.
“If we look closely at what’s going on at the factory, it won’t be fewer workers,” Keith Cooley, former Michigan Department of Labor chief, told CNBC. “Different people will build the cars.”
Researchers believe modern factory jobs may require more education and be less available than in the past. They estimate that electric vehicles could require 30% less manufacturing labor compared to conventional cars. “The lines that route oil or gas around an internal combustion engine won’t be there,” Cooley said.
That change could hit auto parts suppliers, many of whom are concentrated near Midwestern cities like Kokomo, Indiana; Lima, Ohio; and Detroit, Michigan.
“Auto companies in some of these places actually make up a decent chunk of tax revenue, and they employ a lot of people in the surrounding community,” Sanya Carley, a professor at Indiana University and a collaborator on the Industrial Heartland study, told CNBC. “So the fate of these companies is very closely linked to the fate of the communities.”
Washington leaders are hoping that two key pieces of legislation signed into law by President Joe Biden in August, the Inflation Reduction Act and the CHIPS Act, will provide a bridge to that future. These laws grant billions of dollars in incentives to clean energy companies.
With funding in the pipeline, automakers are now wondering how quickly demand for electric vehicles will materialize. Electric vehicles will account for 9% of global car sales in 2021, according to the International Energy Agency.
Watch them Video to learn more about how the electric vehicle revolution will impact the economies of Midwestern states.