Use of electric vehicles in the United States represented 2% of the market in 2016, but projections have it at 22% only 10 years from now. That is a big jump, and it explains in part why Pinal County is becoming a hotbed for EV manufacturing. Both Lucid Motors and Nikola Corporation had plans for plants in Casa Grande and Coolidge, respectively, that faced some delays as financial support was arranged. But both had well-defined products that won major support.
Lucid has hired employees and begun the manufacturing process, with consumer-ready cars to be made after the end of the year. Nikola has held a groundbreaking and this week announced a major new deal to make refuse trucks for Republic Services, the second largest trash hauler in the country. The contract is for a minimum of 2,500 trucks, expandable to 5,000, on the model of the European semi-truck Nikola Tre. Nikola had a major contract with Anheuser-Busch in hand before it selected a site in the new southern part of Coolidge a couple of years ago.
In a nation with increasingly crowded roads, there has been a strong desire on the part of many to switch to vehicles that do not burn petroleum products. Increasingly, electricity is produced with cleaner and/or renewable energy, and the number of solar plants coming to Pinal County is a significant sign. Of course, increasingly better, more efficient technology is making solar energy and electric vehicles more feasible.
Gasoline-powered vehicles have increased in efficiency and reliability in recent decades, and many Americans still are reluctant to switch. Cost is a barrier for many in buying electric vehicles, but that, as well as convenience, certainly will change with time. The nearing reality for driverless vehicles, which is very attractive for corporations but clearly not for the huge number of Americans who make their living on the road, will be a big factor. A large financial incentive to replace fleets is a reason to look at EVs. Regulations in some states also will drive sales.
Something that looked like a fantasy a few years ago is poised to become a big part of Pinal County’s future, with thousands of direct jobs on the horizon.