While we may be in the midst of an economic recovery, many people are struggling due to high unemployment and the lack of job creation. This pain is not lost on the government, which has pushed for American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding for "pick- and shovel-ready" projects. One chunk of money went to the nascent electric vehicle (EV) industry -- including companies such as American startup Tesla and foreign companies like Nissan -- that are building manufacturing capacity in the U.S.
These funds are intended to promote the growth of an industry that will help the country shift away from fossil fuels and toward a cleaner transportation network. Will this investment also help to create jobs? The media and advocates on both sides of the debate have shouted their opinions, claiming everything from "Clean technology equals job destruction" to "EVs are a panacea for domestic employment." The answer lies somewhere in between.
RMI's interest in electric vehicles extends beyond transportation. The vision includes using them as a part of the electric system: to store power and deliver it back to a home or the grid during high-demand periods. With this additional capacity, EVs can help usher in an age of renewable energy and buildings with net-zero energy use.
As a way to support the EV industry, RMI and its partners have created Project Get Ready (PGR), a network of cities, utilities and industry players that shares best practices related to EV deployment. PGR regularly tracks partner cities' activities and the lessons learned. Data includes, among many elements, the cost and timing of charging station installation, utility efforts to encourage off- peak charging, and economic development.
Rather than review what the pundits claim about job creation versus job losses, PGR surveyed 20 utilities, cities, automakers and others on the frontline who deal with EV deployment. Respondents rated their agreement with statements on a scale from 1 to 5, where 1 is "strongly disagree" and 5 is "strongly agree." In response to the statement "Vehicle electrification efforts in my area have been responsible for creating new jobs," the average score was 4.5, representing a very high level of agreement that vehicle electrification is creating new jobs.
However, the statement "It is well-established in my community that vehicle electrification efforts have had an impact on jobs" scored 3.2, only slightly better than neutral, suggesting a messaging or perception challenge rather than an actual job creation issue.
RMI's early findings are supported by some industry research. The Electrification Coalition (EC), which advocates for a large-scale EV deployment, claims that 1.9 million additional American jobs will be created by 2030 if we make a significant transition from gas-powered cars to EVs. While the EC plan is ambitious, some U.S. companies have already added real jobs. EnerDel added 1,400 jobs at its Indiana- based EV lithium-ion battery plant and plans to add another 3,000 to meet growing demand. California-based charging station manufacturers Coulomb Technologies has grown from two to 100 jobs over the early stages of vehicle electrification efforts, according to a company representative.
These are sustainable jobs, not only because they protect the environment but also because the industry won't disappear in the near term. To support EVs, you need additional local electricians and other contractors to install charging stations, jobs that cannot be sent overseas.