By Nora Caley
From the September / October 2023 Issue
Once a unique mode of transportation for the environmentally responsible, electric vehicles (EVs) are now a booming industry that is attracting attention and investment. More than 50 models of EVs and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEVs) are available on the market, in multiple vehicle classes, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.
EVs are still a small percentage of total cars on the road, but are gaining popularity. There were 285.2 million U.S. cars and light-duty trucks in operation, as of fourth-quarter 2022 data, according to the Experian Automotive 2022 Year in Review. Less than 1% of vehicles on the road were electric. However, of the 12.3 million new vehicle retail registrations over the 12 months, more than 6% were for electric vehicles.
Of the U.S. consumers planning on purchasing a new vehicle in the next 24 months, nearly half (48%) intend to purchase an EV – a 19% increase from 2022.
— Ernst & Young
Consumer interest in the vehicles is one indication that growth will continue. The Ernst & Young Mobility Consumer Index (MCI) 2023 Study found that of the U.S. consumers planning on purchasing a new vehicle in the next 24 months, nearly half (48%) intend to purchase an EV – a 19% increase from 2022. Additionally, 82% of EV owners are likely to consider purchasing an EV again, according to the Ernst & Young report.
In August, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) announced a $15.5 billion package of funding and loans to update existing factories for the transition to electric vehicles. The package includes $2 billion in grants and up to $10 billion in loans “to support automotive manufacturing conversion projects that retain high-quality jobs in communities that currently host these manufacturing facilities,” according to the DOE press release.
Here are some regions that are attracting EV manufacturers.
Bay County, Michigan: Evolves To Exceed Expectations
Bay County is Michigan-centered and exemplifies Midwestern spirit and grit. The community was built on the foundation of hard-working people and blue-collar industries that grew from the area’s abundant lumber, water, farming, and energy resources. Today, Bay County retains its heart in heritage industry, while evolving to exceed the expectations of agribusinesses, advanced manufacturers, and pioneers in research and development who call it home.
This community of just over 100,000 residents recently experienced more than $1 billion in capital investment in the electric vehicle and mobility sectors by multiple industry leaders, including SK Siltron CSS, a South Korean-owned world-class, high-technology company. In August 2021, SK Siltron CSS announced a more than $300 million investment to expand production of silicon carbide wafers, considered the future of the industry because of their ability to efficiently transfer energy, as well as reduce charging time and extend driving range of EVs by 5% to 10%. The company has since more than doubled its workforce and has plans to increase production capacity 16-fold by 2025.
“SK Siltron’s Bay County production facilities are the only ones of its kind in Michigan,” said Matthew Gave, who is in External Affairs at SK Siltron CSS. “Globally, only about 10 companies produce silicon carbide wafers. I think our facility is a crown jewel and we are on the leading edge of bringing high-tech manufacturing to Michigan. We want our customers, our suppliers and others in the semiconductor industry to come join us in Michigan.”
Another industry leader, General Motors, has a long history in Bay City – Bay County’s largest community. The GM Bay City Powertrain Plant opened in 1892 as the National Cycle Manufacturing Company, which produced innovative bicycles that replaced older, high-wheel style bikes. The Bay City bike plant was added to the General Motors portfolio in 1918. In January 2023, GM announced a $216 million investment in the plant as part of the company’s larger plan to expand production of V-8 engines. Since 2011, GM has invested more than $600 million in its Bay City Global Propulsion Systems facility.
Mersen USA, a France-based global leader in electrical specialties and advanced materials for high-tech industries, has experienced dramatic growth recently. The influx is due to increasing demand for its graphite products, which are used to manufacture chips and semiconductors that supply the electrification and technology industries associated with EV and component manufacturing. In June, Mersen announced an expansion project expected to generate a capital investment of more than $81 million.
These projects affirm Michigan’s commitment in leading the charge to support electric vehicle manufacturing and mobility. They also point to the integral role communities like Bay County play in supporting the industry and helping facilitate the deployment and creation of cutting-edge technologies.
The state is working to assist with the employee needs of these growing companies through programs like the Semiconductor Talent and Automotive Research (STAR) initiative, focused on developing talent and infrastructure. Additionally, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation has developed a Semiconductor Talent Action Team (TAT) to further ensure the state is a top pick for semiconductor talent.
Visit www.BayFuture.com for more information.