TAEBC guest column: Transportation electrification can recharge Tennessee’s economy

(Originally published in the Knoxville News Sentinel

By Cortney Piper, Executive Director of TAEBC

Tennessee unemployment lingers close to 10% as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to chew through livelihoods across the state. Likewise, millions of Americans are unemployed. The state has an opportunity in this economic downturn, however, to add jobs and make the state a leader in the advanced energy economy for transportation.

The energy sector, specifically transportation electrification, is the solution that Tennesseans should pursue. It would have statewide impact, and with the potential backing of federal funding, has the potential to launch the state into a new phase of manufacturing and job creation.

Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council supports stimulus proposal

The Tennessee Advanced Energy Business Council recently signed on to the Transportation Electrification Partnership’s $150 billion federal stimulus proposal. The coalition of 50 cleantech organizations from 15 states recently sent a letter to Congress, requesting multi-billion-dollar federal investment in transportation electrification. That investment would create 2.3 million high-quality, advanced energy jobs across the country. The proposal’s recommended actions include:

  • $25 billion investment in building and adopting electric and zero-emissions vehicles along with supply-chain development (producing domestic lithium for batteries, etc.);
  •  $85 billion for electric vehicle charging and related infrastructure;
  • $25 billion for zero-emissions public transit, active transit and safe streets;
  • $12.5 billion for workforce development, safety standards and job training; and
  •   $2.5 billion in innovation ecosystems for cleantech startups and related small businesses, prioritizing those created by underrepresented founders.

This electrification proposal isn’t just about putting electric vehicles on the street. It’s about creating manufacturing jobs, as $25 billion would boost the electric vehicle supply chain. Facilities such as Denso in Maryville have become regional leaders in employment because of their role in the automotive supply chain.

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Tennessee’s influence in electric-car sector expanding after Denso announcement

(Credit: Knoxville News Sentinel)

Tennessee will be meeting the future demand for electric vehicles, after Denso Corp. announced the company would spend $1 billion expanding its Maryville, Tennessee facility and hire 1,000 workers.

It comes as major automakers prepare to design new fleets of electric cars in response to the popularity of the Tesla electric car brand and the push for battery-powered vehicles overseas.

Denso’s investment would include safety components and systems for purely electric cars powered only by batteries as well as for hybrid vehicles like Toyota’s Prius that back up a gasoline engine with an electric motor.

The expansion would be the largest ramp up related to electric vehicles in Tennessee since Nissan borrowed $1.6 billion from the U.S. government’s green-car initiative in 2009. The company used the money to help cover the cost of preparing the assembly plant at Smyrna in Middle Tennessee for production of the Leaf electric car.

Read the full story here.