Bring electric vehicle manufacturing to Illinois to help spark our economy

A successful effort could help offset the loss of other corporate headquarters jobs that have left our state.

SHARE Bring electric vehicle manufacturing to Illinois to help spark our economy
A 2023 R1T pickup truck is charged in a bay at a Rivian delivery and service center in Denver. Illinois should work to become a center of EV manufacturing.

A 2023 R1T pickup truck is charged in a bay at a Rivian delivery and service center in Denver. Illinois should work to become a center of EV manufacturing.

David Zalubowski/AP

As some corporate headquarters decamp for other states, Gov. J.B. Pritzker needs to come through on his effort to make the state a center of electric vehicle manufacturing.

Last week, freight car company TTX announced it is moving its headquarters to North Carolina. That follows headquarters departures last year by Boeing, Caterpillar, Citadel Securities and Highland Ventures. Also, Tyson Foods announced last year it would move jobs from Chicago to Arkansas. In decisions affecting fewer employees, other companies have moved in or out of Illinois or expanded or reduced their footprints.

In Britain last week, Pritzker led a trade mission to ask companies that supply parts for electric vehicles to see Illinois as a good place to do business. The governor has said he wants to make Illinois a center of electric vehicle manufacturing, and he has been in talks to lure a major electric vehicle battery plant.

That would not only bring jobs to the state but also help Illinois meet Pritzker’s goal of 1 million electric vehicles on Illinois roads by 2030, as well as help offset revenue lost as other jobs have left the state.

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In 2021, Lion Electric opened an electric bus manufacturing plant in Joliet. In 2019, Rivian Automotive moved into a former Mitsubishi plant in Normal to start building electric vehicles. But Illinois needs to build on those successes if it is to become an electric vehicle manufacturing center.

To help get there, the Legislature in 2021 passed the Reimagining Energy and Vehicles in Illinois Act, which provides incentives to lure companies in the electric vehicle supply chain and promote renewable energy. Another law passed last year will require new or renovated homes to have conduits to charge electric vehicles.

Moreover, the federal Inflation Reduction Act and the National Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act provide incentives for electric vehicles, and in January, Pritzker signed a bill setting out requirements for electric vehicle parking spaces.

But Illinois ought to do more to boost the market for electric vehicles. In its latest budget, the state trimmed about $7.3 million from its electric vehicle rebate program, cutting it to about $12 million. In the previous year, $19.3 million was available for the rebates, which give $4,000 to customers who buy new or used EVs from licensed dealers. Demand was so high, the program ran out of money about halfway through the fiscal year.

More money should be made available for rebates, though perhaps better targeted, to avoid them going to people buying top-end models who could afford to buy electric cars without rebates.

Illinois also should adopt the Advanced Clean Trucks rule, to phase out most gasoline-powered heavy-duty trucks and step up the efforts to get more electricity-powered vehicles on the roads.

It also should raise emission standards, as some other states have done, including Minnesota in the Midwest, which would have the effect of requiring national auto manufacturers to sell a higher percentage of electric vehicles in Illinois, helping to create a bigger market here.

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Manufacturing electric vehicles is a growth market. Nationally, EV sales are on a pace to top 1 million this year, a milestone, and sales were up in the second quarter by 50% over the same time last year, although there are signs that demand is not keeping up with production as fewer models qualify for federal tax credits.

Seeing corporate jobs leaving Illinois is not a good trend. But the nation’s major auto manufacturers are committed to building more electric vehicles, and Pritzker can help offset the loss of corporate jobs if he succeeds in bringing a healthy chunk of those electric vehicle jobs to Illinois.

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