Biden EV Goals Could Bring Jolt to Voltage Valley

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – President Joe Biden’s executive order urging that electric vehicles comprise at least half of all new vehicles by 2030 could help advance development in the Mahoning Valley, specialists say.

“We’re excited to be in the middle of all this,” says Rick Stockburger, executive director of Brite Energy Innovators, an energy incubator in downtown Warren. 

“With the future coming together, ‘Voltage Valley,’ is extremely well-positioned to be a leader in the country in this space.”

The Mahoning Valley, branded as “Voltage Valley” by some, is home to a growing EV industry, anchored by Ultium Cells LLC’s $2.3 billion electric-vehicle battery manufacturing plant under construction in Lordstown.

Just adjacent to that factory is Lordstown Motors Corp., which is preparing to launch its new all-electric pickup, rhe Endurance, in late September.

“We need to hammer down on more research, more innovation happening right next to Ultium, Lordstown Motors, Aptiv and Tata Steel,” Stockburger says.

Stockburger notes that while the president’s order isn’t binding, it does set an aggressive target and answers demand that’s percolated over the last several years.  

“I think the market has spoken that we are moving toward electric vehicles,” he says, noting that General Motors, Ford Motor Co. and other major automakers have already set their own ambitious timelines to roll out their electric portfolios. 

Lordstown Motors, which has experienced its share of difficulty moving forward as an EV startup, is still very much a player in the market, Stockburger says.

Two weeks ago, the company secured a $400 million equity line of credit from hedge fund manager Yorkville Advisors, allowing some breathing room to launch production of the Endurance.

“With today’s announcement, there’s a lot of opportunity for them to be successful, and everything is aligning for that right now,” he says. “I wouldn’t count them out.” 

Now that the government is fully behind the country’s vehicle electrification effort, the Valley could benefit from accelerated federal or state funding for infrastructure to support EV transportation, Stockburger says.

Brite houses several portfolio companies that conduct research and development in the alternative energy space and works closely with them to adopt new technologies to advance industries such as the EV market.  “We want to make sure we’re leading and not waiting for the rest of the country to tell us what to do,” he says.

Stockburger says Brite is getting requests from Fortune 500 companies, planning organizations, and local and state governments to provide advice toward EV adoption. 

U.S. Rep. Tim Ryan, D-13, praised Biden’s action Thursday, saying it sends a message to the rest of the world that the United States is determined to surpass those countries that have already invested heavily in the EV industry.

“China is already two steps ahead of us in the electric vehicle space, and if we don’t act now, we’ll get left in their dust,” Ryan said in a statement. “This forward-thinking leadership will help us achieve our climate goals and put Americans back to work.  I look forward to working with the president to scale up the work we’ve already started here in northeast Ohio so our workers can keep doing what we do best: making world-class cars and trucks.”

Biden was joined outside on the White House lawn on Thursday with General Motors CEO Mary Barra, Ford CEO Jim Farley and Mark Stewart, North America chief operating officer of Stellantis, formerly Fiat Chrysler Automobiles. Also joining were members of the United Auto Workers union.

“We’re all working together to write the next chapter of the American story,” Biden said.  “We’re in competition with China and many other nations for the 21st century. To win, we’re going to have to make sure the future will be made in America.”

Biden’s executive order sets in place a vision for an electric future for the domestic automobile industry.  

“There’s no turning back,” he said. “The question is whether we’ll lead or fall behind in the race for the future.”

The president stressed his support for good-paying union jobs at plants that manufacture these vehicles and a supply chain that supports the industry through the production of electric-vehicle batteries.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing, said in a statement that while the Biden administration is correct to encourage adoption of EV technology, more needs to be done to build out the country’s infrastructure and supply chain.

“China heavily subsidizes its EV industry and controls the supply of many of the critical minerals and materials to power it, including rare earths,” Paul said. “If the U.S. does not make the investments needed to kickstart our own EV industry now, we will lose the race.”

Brite Energy’s Stockburger says he believes it’s a race in which the Mahoning Valley will play a significant role.  “I think the future is coming together,” he says.

Pictured: President Joe Biden signs an executive order on increasing production of electric vehicles after speaking on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Thursday, Aug. 5, 2021, during an event on clean cars and trucks. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

Copyright 2021 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.