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VP Harris Announces $100 Million in Aid for EV Manufacturing During Detroit Visit

by | May 6, 2024

Vice President Kamala Harris made a trip to Detroit bearing some big gifts on Monday, $100 million to help the Motor City’s automotive parts manufacturers upgrade operations to support the shift to battery-electric vehicles.

Kamala Harris

VP Harris has made several visits to Michigan over the past year.

The vice president was joined by other senior administration officials, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm, a former Michigan governor, as well as the state’s current Governor Gretchen Whitmer.

During an appearance at the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History, Harris announced a pair of grants aimed at supporting the ongoing transition from internal combustion to battery-electric vehicles.

$100 million in new grants

The first grant comes from the Department of Energy’s Automotive Conversion Grants program. It will provide a total of $50 million to small and medium-sized automotive suppliers who currently produce parts for vehicles using internal combustion engines. A number of those parts manufacturers have struggled to fund the transition to battery-electric vehicles.

The White House has put a premium on bringing jobs back to the U.S. as part of the shift to EVs and the conversion grants will “keep good, good-paying and union jobs in the same communities as automakers and auto suppliers transition to electric vehicle manufacturing here in America,” it said in a statement released Monday.

President Joe Biden has laid out billions of dollars to back the transition to EVs.

An additional $50 million grant comes from the Industrial Assessments Center Implementation Grants Program and, according to the White House, will help suppliers “improve their facilities’ energy and material efficiency, cybersecurity, or productivity, or reduce the greenhouse gas emissions.”

Making a big bet on EVs

The Biden administration is making a big push for EVs. Earlier this year it authorized new emissions standards that will require battery-electric vehicles to account for about two-thirds of all new vehicles sold in the U.S. by 2032 – though automakers will be permitted to reduce that number slightly and substitute up to 15% plug-in hybrids.

The administration has already committed billions of dollars in funding for the transition to green drivetrain technology, including backing to major automakers. It has also authorized as much as $7 billion to subsidize the growth of a public EV charging network.

Along with the grants announced by VP Harris, the White House announced Monday that the Small Business Administration will take several steps “to catalyze millions of dollars in private capital for the EV supply chain.” The SBA also will establish a new “Working Capital Pilot Program” to back lines of credit for auto parts manufacturers and distributors.

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The administration already approved a Michigan EV Workforce Hub as part of the Investing in America Workforce Hubs. This is a “place-based initiative” meant to help train workers for the new jobs expected to be created by the switch to EV manufacturing. It will see automakers and suppliers partner with local high schools and community colleges.

The transition to EVs is expected to require significant retraining. But it’s also expected to impact the number of jobs needed to produce a typical vehicle. The United Auto Workers made job security a critical part of the contracts it negotiated with Detroit’s Big Three automakers last autumn.

A political purpose

Though it traditionally has had close ties to the Democratic Party, the  UAW was slow to endorse President Joe Biden’s re-election bid, coming onboard only after winning administration support for several key union initiatives.

Still, that backing could prove critical as Michigan is seen as a state vital for the president to win if he expects to beat back the presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump.

Both VP Harris and Pres. Biden have made a number of trips to Michigan over the last year. The president is set to return on May 19, appearing as the keynote speaker at an NAACP dinner.

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