Year in Review: Subsidies supply strong amid fledgling vehicle trend

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(The Center Square) – Up against an average success rate of 11% in one grant program, taxpayer money from North Carolinians will continue to provide the fiscal strength for the push to alternative-powered vehicles.

Electric vehicles and their components continued as an emerging industry in 2023. For all industries, the state Department of Commerce in collaboration with its Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina announced deals it says will bring in 14,114 new jobs through 134 projects that are expected to attract $12.9 billion in capital investment to the state.

The biggest slice of that pie, however, is tied to Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s green energy agenda and the travel trends in a state of 10.8 million residents. His goal, in the form of executive order, is to have 1.25 million zero-emissions electric vehicles by 2030 and achieve a 50% vehicle sales share of the same for light-duty vehicles by the same deadline.

Through August, total electric vehicle registrations in the state were at 75,000, with about 55,000 electric and 20,000 plug-in hybrids. Nearly 18,000 electric vehicles were added in the first seven months of 2023. In context, the state needs to add zero-emissions vehicles at about 14,000-plus monthly to reach Cooper’s goal.

North Carolinians have more than 8 million gas or diesel vehicles registered.

The most recent Commerce Department report on the Job Development Investment Grant program from October shows only 42 of the 406 grants the state inked since the program launched in 2003 have met hiring and investment goals. Ninety-two ended without payment, while 91 were canceled, with a portion of the funds dispersed for creating some jobs. Another 181 are active, suggesting companies could still fulfill the agreements.

Toyota

Investment by Toyota in a Randolph County plant a little more than 20 miles from downtown Greensboro has risen to $13.9 billion. The automaker, with international headquarters in Japan and American operations based in Plano, Texas, said a nearly $8 billion investment at the Toyota Battery Manufacturing facility in Liberty should add 3,000 jobs.

This goes with the 2021 announcement by Toyota in partnership with Toyota Tsusho of a $1.29 billion outlay for battery production and the creation of 1,750 jobs; and another announcement this past summer of an additional $2.1 billion investment.

Totals, per the company and state, are 5,100 new jobs and incentives negotiated with the state providing up to $315 million over 39 years, as well as up to $185 million in site development funds.

Epsilon

Epsilon Advanced Materials agreed to invest nearly $650 million to create 500 jobs at a plant in Brunswick County where it will produce synthetic graphite for electric vehicle batteries.

This deal involves $3.4 million over a dozen years and $1.14 million in site prep.

Kempower

Kempower plans to locate a manufacturing facility in Durham County to build electric vehicle charging stations.

It says the yield is 601 jobs and a $41 million investment, costing taxpayers just over $3 million across a dozen years.

Albemarle

A Kings Mountain lithium mine shuttered since 1988, estimated capable of supporting the production of 1.2 million electric vehicles annually for 30 years, will reopen.

Charlotte-based Albemarle, the world’s largest producer of lithium, received a $90 million grant from the Department of Defense to expand domestic production of the raw mineral used to manufacture electric vehicle batteries. The grant follows a $149.7 million grant Albemarle received from the Biden administration last year for a processing facility.

Albemarle Corp. agreed in September to pay $218 million to resolve multiple international bribery investigations.

Atom Power

North Carolina taxpayers will subsidize the expansion of Atom Power in Mecklenburg County by nearly $1.2 million.

The state’s Economic Investment Committee in May approved a Job Development Investment Grant of $1.2 million to create 205 jobs and invest $4.2 million in Huntersville.

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