VW US chief warns of industry challenges with EV battery shift

Automakers and battery makers are spending tens of billions of dollars building new battery plants and electric vehicle assembly plants across North America as they ramp up production of electric vehicles . The move, which focuses on vehicles powered by new advanced batteries rather than gasoline, requires the United States to overcome a series of challenges, Keogh said.

These challenges include attracting enough skilled workers, significantly boosting and facilitating U.S. mining of critical minerals to produce lithium batteries for electric vehicles, supply chain issues and broader health, education and infrastructure, Keogh said.

keogh said Reuters on the sidelines of the forum that potentially hundreds of thousands of people could be employed by 2030 in the production of the US battery industry.

“It comes down to labor, it comes down to infrastructure, it comes down to investment,” Keogh said.

President Joe Biden has set a goal for 50% of new vehicle sales to be electric or plug-in by 2030, but has not endorsed phasing out gas-powered vehicle sales by a specific date.

Keogh estimated that the United States manufactures between 150,000 and 200,000 batteries per year and that in seven years, “we need to manufacture 8.5 million batteries” per year.

“It’s a scale of investment that, honestly, is going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a walk in the park. It’s huge,” Keogh said.

Keogh also said the United States needed to do more to increase its manufacturing capacity. The US manufacturing sector has fallen from 17 million jobs in 2000 to 12.8 million today, which has rebounded to around pre-Covid-19 pandemic levels.

“We need to build a collective ecosystem to get America back to being a manufacturing society. I think America has become a service economy,” Keogh said. “The challenge of making someone who was working in a Starbucks taking 20-minute breaks, smoking a cigarette in the back, and now jumping into a factory…is a whole new world.”

Keogh said long shifts for factory workers are very different.

“It’s brutal, difficult and challenging work,” Keogh said.

(By David Shepardson; Editing by Will Dunham)

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