Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour has been bucking the party line when it comes to promoting electric vehicles, and his efforts have just borne fruit with the official unveiling of GreenTech Automotive’s MyCar all-electric vehicle. The two-seater is being manufactured at GreenTech Automotive’s Horn Lake facility, and it will directly create hundreds of new jobs in Mississippi with the expectation of thousands of related employment opportunities. The big question, of course, is whether there is enough demand out there to keep the conveyor belts humming at Horn Lake.
Governor Barbour and MyCar
Governor Barbour aggressively courted Green Technologies to bring MyCar production to Mississippi. In doing so he took a political risk, considering the high-decibel rants against EV technology that have been emanating from other conservative political leaders and pundits.
Barbour also took an economic risk as well, since the market for MyCar seems rather narrow at first glance. MyCar is not a highway EV like the Chevy Volt. In the U.S. it is classified as a Neighborhood Electric Vehicle (NEV) with a top speed of 25 mph, which effectively prohibits its use on highways.
A wider market for NEVs
It would be easy to scoff at the idea of pitching a 25 mph vehicle to the general public, but on closer inspection the market for a relatively inexpensive, stylish NEV like MyCar could be a strong and growing one, especially for the many households in need of a second (or more) car.
One trend favoring MyCar is the growth of urban areas, “smart” mixed-use developments and other areas where local streets provide ample routes to nearby shopping, work, commuter connections, schools and other resources.
MyCar could also serve an increasing population of older persons and persons with disabilities, or for that matter any person who needs some degree of mobility and flexibility but prefers to avoid highway driving.
The growing market for NEVs at airports, corporate parks, universities, health care complexes, research centers, malls, resorts, private communities and large public facilities including park lands and military bases is also working in favor of MyCar.
The company already foresees meeting that demand by rolling out a highway-qualified EV in 2014 along with a line of fleet-friendly NEVs based on the MyCar platform including pickups and delivery vehicles.
Helping that trend along is a recent study from MIT that indicates a significant savings by switching from petroleum-fueled trucks to electric trucks.
It’s also worth mentioning that the newly formed public-private Electrification Leadership Council will be working across the industry to help speed the pace of EV (and by extension, NEV) adoption by companies, institutions and the general public.
GreenTech, Green Jobs
GreenTech Automotive was formed when a team headed by former Democratic National Committee chairman Terry McAuliffe purchased Hong Kong-based EuAuto in 2010 and relocated the company to the U.S.
The Horn Lake facility, which occupies a formerly vacant factory, is going to be supplanted by a larger facility under construction in Tunica, Mississippi.
All together, GreenTech is anticipating that it will create about 7,400 jobs by 2014, including direct employees of the company and jobs that are induced or created indirectly by the growing enterprise.
Other aspects of Governor Barbour’s public policies may not find agreement with many readers on this site, but his embrace of electric vehicles demonstrates an acknowledgement of the fact that the U.S. is in the beginning stages of another historic, unstoppable transition from one transportation model to another.
In a recent interview with the New York Times, Barbour said:
“It’s not about politics…It’s about economic development and higher-paying, higher-skilled job creation in my state. We have not, by a long shot, given up on manufacturing in Mississippi.”
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