Shuttered auto plants will become EV factories thanks to $1.7 billion Biden program

The Biden administration announced $1.7 billion to convert endangered or shuttered plants into electric vehicle manufacturing facilities.

Eleven auto factories across eight states that are currently closed or at risk of closing will receive the funding in order to retrofit their operations for EV manufacturing, administration officials said in a call with reporters. The types of goods these factories will produce run the gamut from “parts for electric motorcycles and school buses, hybrid powertrains, heavy-duty commercial truck batteries, and electric SUVs,” the White House says.

“Building a clean energy economy can and should be a win-win for union autoworkers and automakers,” President Joe Biden said in a statement. “This investment will create thousands of good-paying, union manufacturing jobs and retain even more—from Lansing, Michigan to Fort Valley, Georgia – by helping auto companies retool, reboot, and rehire in the same factories and communities.”

“This investment will create thousands of good-paying, union manufacturing jobs”

The money is part of a larger $15.5 billion program administered by the Department of Energy, announced late last year, that seeks to retrofit existing manufacturing facilities into EV and clean vehicle assembly operations. The funding was approved as part of the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, which was President Biden’s landmark climate legislation.

Some of the factories that will be converted include an idled Stellantis factory in Belvidere, Illinois, that will be converted into an EV assembly plant using $334 million in grant money. (Stellantis and the United Auto Workers union announced an agreement to reopen the factory earlier this year.) Stellantis will also receive an additional $250 million to retrofit its  transmission plant in Kokomo, Indiana, for the production of electric drive modules.

General Motors will get $500 million to reconstitute its 25-year-old factory in Lansing, Michigan, into one that will produce electrified models. A Harley-Davidson facility in York, Pennsylvania, will become an electric motorcycle assembly plant with $89 million. And the Blue Bird Corporation, which makes school buses, will get $79 million to upgrade a 600,000-square-foot facility in Fort Valley, Georgia, for the production of electric buses.

One of the preconditions of the grant awards is that the money go toward retaining and creating new union jobs in the auto sector, officials said. Biden made it clear in his statement that the awards “will help ensure the future of the auto industry is made in America by American union workers.” The UAW has endorsed Biden in his reelection campaign.

The president has made EVs a central piece of his climate platform, approving billions of dollars in new spending on consumer incentives for car shoppers and charging station installations. Former President Donald Trump has promised to hit the brakes on Biden’s EV spending if he wins in November, and House Republicans have passed numerous bills to scrap the administration’s EV tax credit program.

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