Do you remember that hyped-up “EV event” at the White House that was hosted by President Biden but was really a pretty ceremony for the UAW to come and puff its chest? During that event, which excluded EV-leader Tesla, which produces not only the most American made EVs but also the most American made cars in general, President Biden announced the goal of having half of vehicles sold in the USA being electric by 2040.
Tesla, the world’s leading EV manufacturer with the best selling vehicles, was purposefully excluded on behalf of the UAW. And now the UAW, it seems, could be changing its mind on EVs (rather soon).
CNN reported that the UAW, “a surprising ally, is pumping the brakes” on its support. UAW President Ray Curry told CNN in August that the concerns centered around the impacts on its members, and “potential volumes.” The article noted that the union has been wary about the shift to EVs and how the shift would affect jobs since EVs take 30% less labor to assemble than ICE vehicles (internal combustion engine vehicles).
“Our concerns were what that impact would be for our membership, what those products would actually look like, [and] potential volumes around those products.”
Although legacy automakers are planning on the inevitable future of EVs, they think the transition will be difficult. Currently, passenger vehicles contribute 20% of total US greenhouse gas emissions, while EVs and plug-in hybrids combined account for just 2–3% of US auto sales. That information comes from a UAW analysis.
“The transition to EVs is not going to happen overnight. EV sales have grown steadily over the past decade, but they still represent a fraction of vehicle sales. EVs and PHEVs combined represent just 2% of U.S. auto sales. And EVs face several hurdles to mass-adoption. EVs are more expensive to produce, making them less profitable and dependent on consumer incentives. In most parts of the country, EV charging infrastructure is woefully inadequate and the electrical grid is unprepared. And consumers shopping for an EV face barriers in battery range and charging speed, as well as a limited selection of models and segments.”
So they say.
The analysis also noted that the shift to EVs requires replacing engines and transmissions with lithium-ion batteries and electric motors. This is a problem because ICE vehicle powertrains “have often been made by automakers themselves and created quality union jobs, [whereas] EV batteries are mostly made by suppliers in other countries, with China in the lead. And where automakers are entering battery production, they are doing so through joint ventures with battery companies that have an unknown track record on providing quality jobs. Whether it is new technologies or new business models, the EV transition should not result in increased outsourcing or erosion of job quality.”
Although the UAW didn’t come out and say they’ve changed their minds on EVs, the CNN piece pointed out that they are “pumping the brakes,” and the analysts have laid a foundation for UAW to walk back on its promise to support President Biden while using job security as an excuse.
If President Biden is serious about EVs, he will reach out to Tesla, which is the market leader for electric vehicles. I think Tesla is highly qualified to help the president navigate the transition. However, politicians will politrick. Grab your popcorn.
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