Durbin Discusses Federal Electric Vehicle Research And Electric Vehicle Infrastructure In Illinois

CHICAGO – U.S. Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) held a virtual news conference to discuss electric vehicles (EV) and EV infrastructure opportunities in Illinois. President Biden’s American Jobs Plan (AJP) proposes a $180 billion investment in research and development and another $174 billion investment in electric vehicles and charging stations. With Rivian’s EV manufacturing facility in Normal, cutting-edge battery research at Argonne National Laboratory, and a statewide push for charging stations, Illinois is well positioned to take advantage of opportunities in the AJP.  Durbin was joined by leaders from Argonne and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW).

“All around Illinois, we see efforts to create this electric vehicle future,” Durbin said. “Scientists and engineers at Argonne have pushed the boundaries of vehicle and battery technology for decades. Their pioneering work will produce batteries that last longer, charge faster, and that can be recycled safely and easily. IBEW is leading the effort to train the next-generation of skilled workers to build and install new electric infrastructure, like charging stations. I will continue to support robust, sustained funding for electric vehicle infrastructure and the innovation that drives our economy forward. We are stepping into the economy of the future, and I want Illinois to lead the way.”

“Building a clean energy economy and addressing the climate crisis is a top priority of the Biden Administration. As we pursue aggressive reductions in emissions nationwide, advancements in battery storage and EV infrastructure will be critical to our efforts to electrify the transportation sector,” said Acting Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy Assistant Secretary Kelly Speakes-Backman. “The U.S. Department of Energy is committed to pushing the frontiers of science and engineering with our national laboratories, catalyzing clean energy jobs through innovations, and ensuring environmental justice and inclusion of disadvantaged communities.”

“IBEW Local 134 has been at the forefront of the energy transition for over two decades,” said Robert Hattier, Business Representative of IBEW Local 134 and Executive Director of the Illinois IBEW Renewable Energy Fund. “The Illinois IBEW Renewable Energy Fund, our statewide renewable energy training initiative, has partnered with four high schools, three community colleges, and the Cook County Department of Corrections to provide solar technology, construction safety, and job readiness training to underserved communities. To meet the growing demand of electric vehicle infrastructure we have added curriculum to all of these programs introducing this technology. These programs are designed to create a pathway to Electrical Apprenticeship opportunities and careers in the electrical industry. In the coming years we will continue to partner with additional vocational schools to extend these opportunities across the state.”

The AJP also calls for the electrification of 20 percent of school buses and the use of federal procurement to electrify the federal fleet; a $180 billion investment in research, including $40 billion to upgrade Illinois laboratories like Argonne and Fermi; and $15 billion for climate research and development demonstration projects like energy storage and EVs.

Argonne is home to the Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), which pioneers battery research. Current battery technology faces serious supply-chain issues that limit its scalability and raise geopolitical concerns. JCESR seeks to address these issues and open up opportunities for the deployment of carbon-free electricity. JCESR’s research focuses on improving battery duration, discharge, storage capacity, and scalability. They also explore the development of alternate batteries that do not rely on the rare mineral components used in lithium ion. 

IBEW is preparing its members for the infrastructure jobs of the future by expanding a high school solar installation and maintenance program to include EV training.  The program includes three Chicago high schools and one Springfield high school, with plans to expand to other areas of the state in the next few years. IBEW hosted the first Electric Vehicle Infrastructure Training Program (EVITP) Train-the Trainer initiative at our apprenticeship school in 2011 with trainers from across the country.  IBEW has continued to offer this training to apprentices, journey-level workers, and IBEW instructors.  Currently there are over 300 EVITP Certified electricians in Illinois.

Next month, Rivian’s EV manufacturing facility in Normal will begin producing its inaugural line of electric trucks, SUVs, and delivery vans. The facility is expected to employ 2,500 workers by the end of the year. Rivian also is contracted to produce 100,000 electric delivery vans for Amazon, an investor in the company.

There are more than 1.7 million EVs in the U.S., with more than 28,000 registered in Illinois. Recent projections indicate that the number of EVs in the U.S could reach 20 million by 2030.