Electric vehicle commission is setting stage for industry growth in state

  • Comments
  • Print

A new state commission is at work evaluating what Indiana needs to become a major player in the electric vehicle production industry.

Members have spent the last few months conducting research on everything from the capabilities of Indiana’s current auto manufacturers to potential opportunities for research and development within the EV product industry.

The 10-member Electric Vehicle Product Commission was formed by the Legislature last year to explore how Indiana’s automakers and its workforce can adapt to the evolving electric vehicle industry as it works to meet President Biden’s goal of accounting for half of all U.S. vehicle sales by 2030.

The commission’s members consist of industry representatives—including Energy Systems Network, United Auto Workers, Toyota, GM and Stellantis—along with four state lawmakers. The group has been meeting since November to pull together by Sept. 30 a report for the Indiana Economic Development Corp. on industry evaluations and suggestions for potential legislation.

Ben Wrightsman

Commission Chair Ben Wrightsman, CEO of Battery Innovation Center, said a lack of skilled workers is a growing concern among industry leaders. The EV Product Commission is working with Purdue University and Ivy Tech Community College to research the current workforce and ways to skill up workers for the EV industry.

The MIT Roosevelt Project released a study in March looking at the future of the auto industry as the nation transitions to electric vehicles.

The study estimated Indiana, Michigan and Ohio could see up to 3.1 million new jobs connected to the EV industry in the next 30 years. But the transition in those states also could result in significant job losses without proper preparation.

Evaluating the workforce is multi-layered, Wrightsman said, including looking at how to retrain the current workforce and how to bring in the future workforce by promoting trade-schooling starting in high school and ensuring advanced-degree classes in college align with what the EV industry needs.

Other action items focus on Indiana’s current inventory of electric vehicle products and its opportunities for growth.

The three company representatives on the commission—from Toyota, Stellantis and GM—will provide reports on their current efforts in transitioning to making electric vehicle products.

Stellantis Director of Operations David Dukes in February presented the commission with a report outlining the company’s innovation and workforce proficiencies and described the manufacturing skills needed for a propulsion-system engine versus those for an electric vehicle.

Last fall, Stellantis (formerly Fiat Chrysler) announced it would invest $229 million to retool its Kokomo plants to produce electric vehicle transmissions. More than 660 employees in Kokomo are being retrained.

The commission is also reaching out to other major auto manufacturers around the state to contribute to the report as well, Wrightsman said.

The EV commission is part of Indiana’s ongoing effort to capitalize on the EV industry, as Gov. Eric Holcomb and Secretary of Commerce Brad Chambers have said in recent months that they want Indiana to lead in the industry.

David Roberts

The IEDC is overseeing the commission in an advisory role to provide research data and help with writing the report. Dave Roberts, IEDC executive vice president of entrepreneurship and innovation, declined to be interviewed for this story and instead offered a written statement.

“Indiana is committed to leading the global effort to advance the future of mobility, and we are gaining momentum across the state through our strong collaborations,” Roberts wrote. “Electric vehicles are an important next step to the vibrant mobility ecosystem in Indiana, and we’re excited to support more investment and development across the state.”

Wrightsman noted that, while the commission is focused on the production aspect of electric vehicles, it is also keeping in mind the “EV ecosystem” and plans to consider efforts to build out a charging infrastructure and the impact of an increasing number of electric vehicles on the state’s power grid.

“Individually, as a commission, we’ve said, we owe it to those before us and those after us and those around us to … not have our blinders on and [do only] what we need to do,” Wrightsman said.

Kerri Garvin

Kerri Garvin, executive director of Greater Indiana Clean Cities, has been attending most of the EV commission meetings. She said she appreciates the commission’s looking beyond just its specific assignment.

“They’re understanding there’s a whole sort of ecosystem … and I’ve used that phrase many times with people, because you can’t do things in this sort of vacuum or a tunnel … there’s so many moving parts to this area,” Garvin said.

She added that she hopes the commission report results in more public policy to show that Indiana is a player in the EV product industry.

The report due in September is just the first. The commission will operate until 2026, and Wrightsman does not want the first report to be viewed as a final solution.

“I hope it’s a road map for, ‘What do we know today? What did we know leading up to this and what are we already [working on for] tomorrow?’” he said.•

Please enable JavaScript to view this content.

Story Continues Below

Editor's note: You can comment on IBJ stories by signing in to your IBJ account. If you have not registered, please sign up for a free account now. Please note our updated comment policy that will govern how comments are moderated.

11 thoughts on “Electric vehicle commission is setting stage for industry growth in state

  1. A lack of skilled workers, average health of the work force
    ( smokers and obesity )
    hasn’t stopped major EV and battery production projects from going to Kentucky or other Southern States.

    Kentucky alone has bagged two major EV production developments in the last three months.

    The vast majority of all of these major economic expansions ( there have been many ) have occurred in
    the states where health and education are not probably any better than here in

    However, all of these southern states have one thing in common.
    1). Unions aren’t nearly as successful in organizing and are not welcome.
    2). Several southern states do not have a state income tax.
    3). These states keep regulations to a minimum.

    We also need to shed our “ aw shucks down home attitude “. Just having a good business climate is NOT working. We need a solid outreach game plan.

    We need economic development HUNTERS and to treat attracting economic development projects as a blood sport. Only results matter.
    No pat on the back for an almost win.

    1. Is Indiana developing an out reach program?? We need a solid and aggressive
      marketing program to reach out to the decision makers of these future
      economic development projects. We need to promote our strengths.

    2. Keith B. – Two companies have announced plans to locate new battery manufacturing plants in Kentucky, Ford Motor Company and Japan’s Envision. Ford will receive up to $410 million in commonwealth incentive funds while Envision will receive up to $116 million from commewealth incentive funds and up to $5 million in grants for skills training. The Ford investment in Kentucky is not surprising since the company has invested nearly $7 billion there in the last 35 years.

    3. I agree with everything you mentioned. Indiana needs to totally revamp its position on everything and become a more progressive state. If done correctly, Indiana can still have conservative positions on somethings and progressive on others. The low cost of living and business friendly atmosphere is an outdated talking point that’s not unique to just Indiana. Indiana has to get creative in thinking of ways to lure companies to wanna move here vs any other state to choose from. We definitely need to step our game up for generations to come.

    4. Brent B. Agreed that Fords announcement wasn’t a suprise given their huge
      investments in operations in Louisville. However, that plant could
      have just as easily been built on the Indiana side of Louisville also.
      That’s why I am hammering our state economic development officials.

      For all the talk about quality of life and being a progressive state. Louisville and
      the state of Kentucky have been nailing grand slam home runs over the
      last ten years. I do t th8nk Louisville or the state of Kentucky is anymore
      progressive than we are. They just are far more aggressive in bringing large
      economic development projects to their state.

      Here’s the main thing. Almost every major economic development project
      had went to a southern state. What do the Southern States all have in common,
      1). Lower taxes
      2). Fewer regulations
      3). Not union friendly. Much harder for the unions to organgisr.

      That said, Indianapolis and the state need to be much more aggressive.

  2. Electric vehicles (EVs) are one of the least cost-effective ways to lower CO2 emissions. An EV must be driven 124K miles before it works off its carbon debt.
    The battery has 135K miles of range before it degrades to the point of becoming unusable. And then it’s dumped in a landfill.

    1. As a EV driver with 139k miles (and counting) on my Volt that is charged in my garage each night and not currently dumped in a landfill, those range numbers are garbage, not the EV battery.

    2. I agree that EVs are not the panacea that many proponents make them to be, but electrifying our vehicle fleet is still important. Over time, we have to reduce the need for driving overall, but that’s going to be a long term effort that takes decades as we rebuild rail lines, scale up transit services, and redevelop areas around transit stations to be more walkable and people-oriented.

      EV batteries are highly recyclable. New regulations mandating the recycling of batteries is going to be required. But let’s not spread the false information that they become “unusable” at 135k miles; there’s nothing to support that statement. Consumer Reports states that the average lifespan of an EV battery is about 200,000 miles, or 17 years of use assuming the average annual miles driven in the U.S.

  3. I have friends that work for Stellantis in Kokomo. Some of them are starting to sweat bullets because it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out EV vehicles have 1/2 the moving parts to operate. In theory that’s going to require 1/2 the workers to BUILD THEM. Combine this with the growing number of robot production and people are losing jobs left and right. Just a matter of time if you ask me. This coming from native of Kokomo. My dad worked at GM for 25 years.

  4. Where do we stand trying to get battery facilities in Indiana? With $3.16 billion from federal grants available there has to be a package that can be put together to lure companies to Indiana.