Honda, OSU, taxpayer partnership comes when EV plans slowed

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(The Center Square) – Honda plans to invest $15 million in a public-private partnership with Ohio State University to develop battery cell research at a time when major auto manufacturers are cutting back electric vehicle plans.

The plan, including $4.5 million in federal taxpayer funding, is for Ohio State to advance research for battery cells at a new lab expected to open in April 2025.

So far, $22 million has been committed to the project, which will be managed by OSU’s Institute for Materials and Manufacturing Research.

“Ohio State’s commitment to research, innovation and bringing solutions to the world is at the heart of our land-grant mission,” said Peter Mohler, acting president and executive vice president for research, innovation and knowledge at Ohio State. “We have more reach and impact when we work with our partners at the local, state and federal levels and we join industry-leading partners like Honda and Schaeffler.”

The investments come a week after Ford, GM and Honda all began to hit the breaks on electric vehicle projects and a day before Stellantis announced it wants to buy out half of its non-union workforce because of its transition to electric vehicles.

Ford Motor Co. paused its $3.5B EV plant in Marshall, Michigan.

Despite $1.7 billion of promised taxpayer incentives for the plant and site readiness, Ford says it’s not confident it can run the Michigan plant competitively. A final decision hasn’t been made about the plant that officials said would create 2,500 jobs with an average wage of $45,136.

General Motors and Honda have canceled a program to sell EVs for around $30,000.

Bob Nelson, executive vice president of American Honda Motor Co., Inc., said the company remains committed to all electric vehicles – automobiles, motorcycles and power products – and believes the facility will move EV technology forward.

“We have had a long-standing relationship with Ohio State that goes back more than 30 years, and this new facility is an extension of that great partnership. This facility will be a great resource to train the next-generation workforce in advanced manufacturing technologies,” Nelson said.

John Mozena, who has decades of experience in the automotive and battery industries and is the president of the Center for Economic Accountability headquartered in Michigan, questions the accountability that goes along with promises made to taxpayers for such projects.

“All you have to do is look at how Honda canceled its EV battery partnership with General Motors not three weeks ago to get a real-world reality check on how hard it is to make any sort of meaningful prediction about EVs, their batteries, the consumer demand for them, the regulatory environment they’ll face in the future and so much more,” Mozena said. “That’s not to say that Ohio State shouldn’t be partnering with industry on R&D initiatives when it makes sense for all parties involved, but rather that they should be transparent and honest up front with their stakeholders about the way that they’re making what’s effectively a speculative investment in a particular future rather than announcing a sure bet.”

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