We should not allow a future with electric vehicles and its associated jobs to pass by West Virginia.
A former congressman, Nick Rahall, would like for you to believe that it’s too soon for EVs, as he stated in a recent op-ed in the Gazette-Mail. But when we look at a sampling of headlines, we see another picture: “GM and LG to spend $2.3 billion on second EV battery plant in U.S.”; “Ford to build new plants in Tennessee, Kentucky in $11 billion investment in EVs” (creating 11,000 jobs); “Electric Dodge muscle car and Ram pickup part of Stellantis’ $35.5 billion EV plans”; “VW breaks ground on massive Tennessee EV plant”; “Midwest governors agree on EV charging-network plan” and so on.
There are two things these headlines have in common.
First, tens of billions in private investment dollars are going into EV capacity, laying the foundation for massive production over the next five to 10 years and equally massive hiring.
Secondly, although surrounding states like Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio are targets for these production facilities, West Virginia is never mentioned. Battery and EV manufacturing facilities aren’t being built 20 years from now, they are being built now. A new foundation for transportation manufacturing and jobs is being laid before our eyes and being built around, not in, West Virginia.
Regarding the affordability of EVs, it’s important to understand that the operational costs of an EV are much less than a gas vehicle. And, with the average new vehicle price in the United States just above $40,000 according to Kelley Blue Book, EV pricing is not far out of line. All new technology is expensive at first. As production scales up, those costs go down.
Beyond price, functionality also has increased. Anyone want to compare their smartphone with one of the first? Battery life, charging, screens and connection speeds have all improved greatly. EVs are on the same path and have more than doubled available range in the past 10 years.
However, West Virginia’s fast-charging infrastructure is currently limited. In the meantime, there are other EV options, including plug-in hybrid electric vehicles that allow owners to drive locally on electricity and use gas on longer trips.
The best thing about the electricity that powers EVs is that it’s local. You can’t ship a boatload of electricity from another country, especially countries that have and would like to harm the United States. The jobs that generate and distribute that electricity are all local. I would think we could all get behind that, whether the electricity comes from coal, gas, wind or solar.
Where politicians see problems with battery recycling, some states see opportunity. Canadian company Li-Cycle recently came to an agreement in Alabama to build their fourth battery recycling plant. Battery components are too valuable to put in a landfill.
After reusing or recycling what we can, another concern raised is the procurement of raw materials tied to China. There is no shortage of lithium, nickel, aluminum, etc., in the United States, but we need to seize the opportunity and develop the industry responsibly.
The largest transportation transition in a century is here. West Virginia can be proud of its history as a coal and energy state, but we need to recognize that times are changing.
As a lifelong West Virginia resident and worker, I have made my life in West Virginia. I am also a volunteer with the West Virginia Electric Auto Association, an EV enthusiast group. I don’t want to see us continue to lose our youth to surrounding states or see our population continually decline.
Our political leaders could fight to keep everything the same, but a terrible thing happens when everything stays the way it is — nothing. The EV industry might not cure all of West Virginia’s ills, but it could certainly help on the jobs and innovation front. For the sake of future generations, I hope we will welcome EVs.