Push for electric technology could boost SC automakers
Battery-powered vehicles like the cars that will be built at the Volvo Cars campus in Berkeley County will see a surge in popularity over the next decade, a new report shows, and last week’s proposal by President Joe Biden to invest in electric-vehicle technology could make them even more attractive to consumers. Biden’s plan was short on specifics, but the commander in chief said he wants to provide rebates to EV buyers and build a national network of 500,000 charging stations by 2030 so consumers will safe giving up their combustion engine rides. The proposed $174 billion investment in the EV alternative is part of a $2 trillion infrastructure plan Biden rolled out. It’s not clear how much of a rebate EV buyers would get if the spending is approved. Currently, consumers can get a $7,500 tax credit for the purchase of a most new EVs, although some automakers — General Motors and Tesla, for example — have already reached the sales cap for the incentive. The push toward EVs comes as the technology is about to gain wider acceptance from U.S. drivers, according to Moody’s Investors Service. The analyst group says alternative-fuel vehicles — those that run on battery power or plug-in hybrids — will make up 10 percent of all new U.S. vehicle registrations by the mid-2020s. By 2030, Moody’s said, nearly 1 of every 3 cars will fall into the alternative fuel category, with the large majority of those vehicles powered by batteries. A key driver for much of that growth is the California Air Resource Board‘s mandate for increased production of zero-emission vehicles, the Moody’s report states. States accounting for 45 percent of U.S. auto shipments now adhere to those standards and the board expects zero emission vehicles will make up 8 percent of California cars by 2025. “Initiatives by the Biden administration supporting even more aggressive moves toward carbon-free vehicles would further increase our forecast for U.S. alternative-fuel vehicle penetration,” Moody’s said “These initiatives may include: tighter emission standards; expanded tax credits; pursuing plans to build 500,000 charging stations; or moving to replace, over time, the U.S. government’s 645,000-vehicle fleet with alternative-fuel vehicles.” That is, of course, good news for Volvo, the Swedish-headquartered and Chinese-owned automaker which builds S60 sedans at a $1.1 billion manufacturing campus off Interstate 26 near Ridgeville.
Volvo has pledged that every new car it builds by 2030 will be battery-powered. That includes the S60 and a redesigned XC90 sport-utility vehicle that will be built in South Carolina beginning in 2023. Germany’s BMW, which has a massive factory in the Upstate, has said it will speed up the rollout of its electric vehicles. And, last week, Mercedes-Benz Vans said it will start building an electrified version of its Sprinter commercial van beginning in the second half of 2023. Moody’s said the road to profitability for most EVs will be long. “Achieving adequate returns on this growing portfolio will be a major challenge for car companies,” the analyst report said. “Roadblocks include high battery costs; reaching sufficient demand to produce EVs at scale; and the complexity of effectively integrating a broad range of mobility services with EV products.” Volvo CEO Hakan Samuelsson said in an interview with CNBC that the EV market won’t survive if it can’t eventually stand on its own, but that governments can play a role in helping the transition reach that point. “Importantly, authorities need to invest in infrastructure to support the new electric cars coming out,” he told the cable network. “If there would be investments in the charging network, we would really be ready to meet such a timing schedule to deliver fully electric cars.”
The Georgia Ports Authority last week announced several initiatives to add cargo capacity at its main container terminal in Savannah, but plans for a new port in Jasper County were noticeably absent from the list of projects.
The board of directors for the Peach State maritime agency on March 29 approved an unspecified amount of spending to boost the Port of Savannah‘s capacity by 20 percent, adding the capability to handle an extra 650,000 cargo boxes measured in 20-foot increments each year. The port handled a record 4.7 million containers in 2020.
By the time the improvements are finished in 2023, Savannah’s Garden City Terminal — the Port of Charleston‘s biggest cargo competitor — will have 6 million containers of annual berth capacity.
“Right now, we are moving container volumes that we did not expect to see for another four years,” Griff Lynch, the authority’s executive director, said in a statement. He said the projects will “increase the speed and fluidity of cargo handling” in Savannah. While the Jasper project on the South Carolina side of the Savannah River wasn’t included in a statement outlining the GPA’s expansion plans, Jasper County officials say they are confident the $5 billion seaport will get back on track after years of slow movement by both Georgia and South Carolina officials. The S.C. State Ports Authority assigned its 50 percent share in the terminal to Jasper County as part of a deal for support of a $550 million debt plan for Charleston port improvements that’s making its way through the S.C. Legislature. Georgia has until Sept. 1 to say whether it will accept the new joint venture with Jasper County.