ATLANTA – Kia Motors America, which operates an assembly plant in Troup County producing 340,000 vehicles per year, recently dropped “Motors” from its name and is now known simply as “Kia America”.
The reason? The Korean automaker’s $ 25 billion plan to switch to electric vehicles will soon make “engines” obsolete.
This same trend is behind Gov. Brian Kemp’s announcement on July 20 of a new state-wide initiative to strengthen Georgia’s status as a leader of the electric mobility industry.
The Alliance for Electric Mobility and Innovation (EMIA) will bring together industry leaders with heads of state from government, education, utilities and non-profit organizations to research ways to develop an industry that has already had major successes.
“Georgia has a proven track record of investing early in the resources and infrastructure needed to connect it to the world and develop the jobs of the future,” Kemp said. “The Alliance for Electric Mobility and Innovation will ensure that our state is able to continue to lead the country in the rapidly growing sector of electric mobility. “
EMIA will not start its work from scratch. Georgia already has an impressive list of recent international investments in electric mobility, including:
- two SK Innovation electric vehicle battery manufacturing plants in Jackson County, an investment of nearly $ 2.6 billion by the South Korean company.
- Decision of the Dutch electric vehicle charging company Heliox to set up its North American headquarters in Atlanta.
- Turkish electric vehicle parts maker TEKLAS, which plans to open its first North American factory in Gordon County.
- German company GEDIA, a manufacturer of lightweight body parts, is considering opening a factory in Whitfield County.
- Duckyang, a South Korea-based electric mobility parts supplier, which will build two factories near Braselton.
But there is still plenty of room for the industry to grow in Georgia, said Chris Clark, president and CEO of the Georgia Chamber of Commerce. He cited projections showing that electric vehicles in Georgia will grow from just 7% of the market in 2025 to 30% by 2030, 58% by 2040 and 96% by 2050.
“Kia, SK and all of these companies have to build these vehicles,” Clark said. “We want Georgia to do it.”
Pat Wilson, commissioner of the State Department of Economic Development, said 55,000 jobs in Georgia are somehow tied to the auto industry. But many of those jobs involve manufacturing vehicles with traditional internal combustion engines in an industry that is rapidly evolving towards electric vehicles.
“We’re probably going to see more change over the next 20 years in the auto industry than we’ve seen in the past 100 years,” Wilson said. “We are focusing on public policies that can help drive this transition. “
This is where EMIA comes in. Participants in the initiative will be divided into five committees that will set goals in five categories: supply chain, infrastructure, workforce development, innovation and policy. The Carl Vinson Institute at the University of Georgia will host the committee meetings.
Wilson said the auto industry will be represented in the initiative by executives from Kia, Cox Automotive, Porsche – which is headquartered in North America in Hapeville – and Mercedes-Benz USA of Sandy Springs.
He said the work will also involve executives from Georgia Power and the state’s Electric Membership Co-operatives (EMCs). The public sector will be represented by the State Department of Transportation and the Technical College System of Georgia, which will participate in discussions on workforce development.
“We see this as a true public-private partnership,” Wilson said.
What emerges from the initiative could take the form of legislation for consideration by the General Assembly, new policy initiatives, or a combination of the two.
The state has already followed the legislative path on electric mobility. Lawmakers approved a tax credit for electric vehicle buyers in the 1990s, when electric vehicles were scarce, but scrapped it in 2015 as electric vehicle sales skyrocketed.
Georgia Representative Chuck Martin R-Alpharetta, the main sponsor of the 2015 bill, said the tax credit primarily generates sales for the Nissan Leaf electric vehicle.
“It didn’t help spur innovation,” he said. “It was just to subsidize a purchase.”
Clark agreed that a tax credit to boost sales of electric vehicles is no longer necessary. But he said he expects some form of tax credit proposal to flow from the new initiative that will neither encourage sales of electric vehicles nor offer the tax credit for the employment that Georgia has traditionally provided to industries the state hopes to attract.
“It’s a new industry, a new economy, and our old jobs tax credit won’t make a difference for these guys,” he said. “We’re going to have to listen to the industry.
Clark is considering new tax breaks that would encourage gas stations to install charging stations for electric vehicles or encourage home builders to install chargers in new homes.
Martin said the state government needs to be careful not to get ahead of the industry in pushing too aggressively for a transition to all electric vehicles.
“Innovation will get us there,” he said. “But in some places there won’t be a power grid or charging stations to make this happen.”
Wilson said he was not sure what solutions the committees would come up with.
“We want to approach this with a blank slate and really listen to the professionals,” he said.
Wilson said the committees will meet this fall with the aim of making recommendations in time for the 2022 General Assembly session that begins in January.