VW’s US chief warns of industry challenges with EV battery switching

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Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told an Automotive News forum in Washington that the shift to electric vehicles was the biggest “industrial transformation in America.”

Volkswagen AG’s top U.S. executive said on Thursday the U.S. faces major challenges in ramping up battery production to facilitate the shift to electric vehicles, including attracting skilled workers, mining key metals and resolving issues. supply chain issues.

Scott Keogh, chief executive of Volkswagen Group of America, told an Automotive News forum in Washington that the shift to electric vehicles was the biggest “industrial transformation in America.”

Automakers and battery makers are spending tens of billions of dollars building new battery plants and electric vehicle assembly plants across North America as they ramp up production of electric vehicles . The move, which focuses on vehicles powered by new advanced batteries rather than gasoline, requires the United States to overcome a series of challenges, Keogh said.

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These challenges include attracting enough skilled workers, dramatically boosting and facilitating U.S. extraction of critical minerals to produce lithium batteries for electric vehicles, supply chain issues, and broader health, education, and infrastructure. , Keogh said.

Keogh told Reuters on the sidelines of the forum that potentially hundreds of thousands of people could be employed by 2030 in the production of the US battery industry.

“It comes down to labor, it comes down to infrastructure, it comes down to investment,” Keogh said.

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President Joe Biden has set a goal for 50% of new vehicle sales to be electric or plug-in by 2030, but has not endorsed phasing out gas-powered vehicle sales by a specific date.

Keogh estimated that the United States manufactures between 150,000 and 200,000 batteries per year and that in seven years, “we need to manufacture 8.5 million batteries” per year.

“This is a scale of investment that, honestly, is going to make the Industrial Revolution look like a cake walk. That’s huge,” Keogh said.

Keogh also said the United States needed to do more to increase its manufacturing capacity. The U.S. manufacturing sector has grown from 17 million jobs in 2000 to 12.8 million today, which has rebounded to roughly pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

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“We need to build a collective ecosystem that transforms America back into a manufacturing society. I think America has become a service economy,” Keogh said. “The challenge of getting someone who used to work at a Starbucks to take 20-minute breaks, smoke a cigarette in the back, and now hop into a factory…is a whole new world.”

Keogh said long shifts for factory workers are very different.

“It’s brutal, difficult and challenging work,” Keogh said.

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