Could The EV Boom Help Alleviate The Unemployment Crisis?

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By Haley Zaremba

While many sectors of the economy continue to flounder and unemployment rates remain tragically high, the stock market is thriving and certain industries are going gangbusters even amidst a global public health crisis, political chaos, and a general zeitgeist of existential dread. As Federal aid has waned, 8 million people in the United States have slipped below the poverty line since May, the biggest spike in indigence in 60 years. In the same time period, Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk cemented their status as centibillionaires. Now, just this month, Elon Musk shocked the world when he surpassed Amazon’s Jeff Bezos as the richest man on Earth on Thursday, riding high on Tesla’s meteoric 2020 rise. The iconic electric vehicle company’s stock value has gained over 700% this year, and was given a significant boost in anticipation of TSLA’s induction into the S&P 500 last month. “A 6% rise in Tesla (TSLA) shares early Thursday lifted the value of its CEO’s stock holdings and options by $10 billion, taking his net worth to about $191 billion,” reports CNN Business. “A more modest rise of less than 2% lifted Bezos’ Amazon (AMZN) shares by about $3 billion, putting his net worth at $187 billion.”

While Musk’s trajectory is anything but typical, his soaring success this year can be viewed as a microcosm of much larger gains by the EV industry. It would be overly simplistic to say that electric cars are killing it–just like any other economic sector, 2020 was a bumpy ride for EV markets. Despite lots of hopeful speculation, the entire clean energy industry was hit hard, with about a half-million workers losing their clean energy jobs during the pandemic.

Despite these sobering statistics, there is a lot of truth to the claims that clean energy is taking off. Over the summer, PV Tech reported on “a raft of new studies” which has “come to underscore the business case of pushing renewables to the heart of the COVID-19 recovery, amid claims green energy plays offer a low-cost, high-return opportunity for investors.” Then, in August, MacArthur ‘genius’ Saul Griffith’s organization Rewiring America backed these findings up and “made its big debut with a jobs report showing that rapid decarbonization through electrification would create 15 million to 20 million jobs in the next decade, with 5 million permanent jobs after that.”

The EV sector, in particular, holds a huge amount of promise for jobs creation in 2021. And not just from Tesla. In the United Kingdom, legislators are debating whether to accelerate a ban on new combustion engine sales in the interest of boosting new EV jobs and buoying the economy. On this side of the Atlantic, a fleet of small-scale EV companies are revving up for a new clean-energy friendly administration and rising interest in ESG investment.

While the details of a Biden-led green stimulus package as it pertains to the EV industry are still unknown, a lot of industry insiders are betting on a promising degree of federal support. Biden has already tapped former Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm, who worked closely between President Obama and the automotive industry during the 2008 financial crisis, to fill the Energy Department Secretary role.

One promising sector is the electric trucking industry, which has seen a flurry of mergers in recent months. EV trucking companies Lordstown Motors, Hyliion, XL Fleet, Rivian, Nikola and Lightning eMotors have all “recently raised hundreds of millions of dollars and gone public by merging with ‘blank check’ companies, or Special Purpose Acquisition Companies (also called SPACs)” according to reporting last week by GreenBiz.

But that’s just one small part of a much larger sector that’s poised for a massive comeback and a great year. Growth in EV manufacturing and EV manufacturing jobs means growth in EV infrastructure and EV infrastructure jobs. Additionally, “a federal government stimulus also could inject funding and jobs into a growing domestic EV battery production sector,” writes GreenBiz.

One thing is very clear: EV is no longer a niche market with sci-fi leanings. It’s becoming more widespread and more accessible all the time, and the great news is that in addition to being great for the planet, it’s going to be great for the economy at a time that decent manufacturing jobs are sorely needed. C’mon Mr. Musk. It’s time to let those economics trickle down.

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