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Why North Charleston ranks No. 1 in the Eastern US for EV manufacturing

Jason Thomas //May 2, 2023//

Why North Charleston ranks No. 1 in the Eastern US for EV manufacturing

Jason Thomas //May 2, 2023//

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South Carolina ranks high on a new report from a national site selection firm for areas poised to attract new manufacturing investment and jobs in the growing electric vehicle supply equipment industry.

The report, from Boca Raton-based The Boyd Co., compares annual operating costs for a typical EVSE manufacturing plant in 30 cities across the country, with North Charleston ranking No. 1 in the U.S. East.

North Charleston costs are a low $45.7 million per year in a hot industrial real estate market, according to the report, which cited the recent $3.5 billion investment from Nevada-based Redwood Materials for its plant in Ridgeville, which will bring 1,500 jobs, and Volvo rolling out production later this year of its all-electric SUV, the EX90, which will create 1,300 jobs at its Ridgeville plant.

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But John Boyd, principal at The Boyd Co., said “it’s not just Charleston and the Lowcountry with the compelling labor and infrastructure assets so attractive to the EV industry,” noting BMW’s $1.3 billion investment in the Upstate and Clemson University creating the nation’s first undergraduate degree in automotive engineering, calling it “a statewide phenomenon.”

That momentum is expected to carry forward — and not just in the automotive sector.

“Looking ahead, we fully expect South Carolina to widen its EV industry footprint into the aviation sector which is now beginning to take off given major advancements in battery technology and FAA endorsements,” Boyd said in an email.

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The report divides the 30 cities into three regions: East, South Central and West. Chattanooga, Tenn., ranked No. 1 in the South Central region, while Minden, Nevada, ranked No. 1 in the West.

The Boyd Co. has a long history of site selection work in the state of South Carolina, going back to some of the major economic development wins for the Palmetto State during the governorship of Carrol Campbell in the 1980s.

Federal incentives fueling EV growth

The report cites federal government incentives for fueling electric vehicle industry growth.

The Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law has earmarked $7.5 billion for EV charging and the build out of a national electric vehicle charging network along designated Alternative Fuel Corridors, mostly along the Interstate Highway System, according to the report. Also, the Biden administration has established the NEVI program which provides $5 billion in funding over five years to help states build a coast-to-coast network of qualifying fast chargers.

Currently, many critical electric vehicle components are sourced in Asia and U.S. manufacturers have to import them via a costly and geopolitically risky 50,000-plus mile global supply chain, the report stated. U.S. battery manufacturers alone are estimated to spend more than $150 billion overseas on key inputs by 2030.

NEVI funding is designed to mitigate these EV supply chain risks and cost penalties and be sync with the Federal Highway Administration’s Build America, Buy America Act, which is encouraging the reshoring of manufacturing investment from China and elsewhere, the report stated.

South Carolina could be a key player in the years ahead.

“With the phasing out of internal combustion vehicles, union leaders are convinced that they must gain a foothold in the EV industry so that workers making engines and transmissions have a place to go,” Boyd said. “This transition in the labor sector makes Right-to-Work Legislation in states housing our top three EV sector cities — South Carolina, Tennessee and Nevada — that much more important and relevant.”