Headquartered in the public power city of High Point, North Carolina, Thomas Built Buses delivered its first electric bus, the Saf-T-Liner® C2 Jouley®, in April 2020. Since then, the company has delivered 400 Jouleys, with sales more than doubling from 2022 to 2023.
“We’re committed to furthering this trend,” said Mark Childers, Powertrain and Technology Sales Manager of Thomas Built Buses.
Fueling the electrification efforts are carbon-reduction mandates in various states and funding opportunities created through the EPA Clean School Bus Program, Childers said. The program supports replacing diesel buses with cleaner, zero- and low-emission alternatives.
In North Carolina, part of the state’s share of the Volkswagen Settlement is funding electric school buses, transit buses, and heavy-duty vehicles, as well as zero-emission vehicle infrastructure.
Mandates and incentives are only part of the story. “Automotive electrification is being driven by climate change and environmental concerns, government policies and incentives, technological advancements, economic factors, consumer attitudes, and corporate commitments,” said Sean Gouda, Senior Manager of Transmission & Distribution Services with Burns & McDonnell. “These factors, combined with a wider shift toward renewable energy, are expected to continue driving the electrification of the automotive sector in the U.S.”
Whatever is driving the EV industry forward, North Carolina has the keys to support its growth.
Along with consistently being ranked a top state for business, “North Carolina happens to sit on a pretty rich seam of the material that’s processed into lithium,” said Chris Chung, CEO of the Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina. “That’s a good thing for North Carolina and a good thing for national security.”
Toyota chose North Carolina to locate its first-ever North American battery manufacturing plant. And Vietnamese auto manufacturer VinFast selected North Carolina for its first North American automotive assembly and battery manufacturing plant.
ElectriCities Smart Sites provides shovel-ready property for economic development growth in North Carolina public power communities. The program includes valuable due diligence that shortens development time and minimizes risk.
“We see continued opportunity to attract parts of the value chain that makes up vehicle electrification,” Chung said. “In the near term, we expect to continue seeing a lot of what we’ve seen in the past few years, which is companies that are involved in everything from processing the materials that go into the batteries and the battery components, to the battery production, to the vehicle assembly, to the charging infrastructure.”
North Carolina—public power communities in particular—also can deliver on another requirement many companies supporting the EV value chain have: large industrial sites that have requisite infrastructure, access to ready workforce, and highly competitive electric rates.
ElectriCities’ Smart Sites program provides shovel-ready property for economic development growth in North Carolina public power communities. The program includes valuable due diligence that shortens development time and minimizes risk.
“It’s a fascinating time to be in economic development, because we happen to be doing this work amidst probably one of the biggest economic transformations of a major industry sector,” Chung said.
And North Carolina is well positioned to be a driving force in the transformation.