Cars are getting greener and driving job growth

Investments in clean energy technologies for cars are creating jobs. Most recently, Alcoa—with the assistance of a loan from the Department of Energy—is expanding a Tennessee aluminum manufacturing facility and adding 200 jobs.

April 1, 2015

The following blog by Luke Tonachel, Vehicles Analyst, New York City has been cross-posted from NRDC’s Switchboard blog. The original post is available online here

Investments in clean energy technologies for cars are creating jobs. Most recently, Alcoa – with the assistance of a loan from the Department of Energy – is expanding a Tennessee aluminum manufacturing facility and adding 200 jobs to meet automakers’ demand for lightweight materials that can improve fuel efficiency and reduce carbon pollution. And according to a new EPA report, automakers are successfully meeting the federal clean car standards. These are good signs for the environment and the economy.

Jobs for Clean Energy Innovation

The Alcoa jobs add to the nearly 47,000 clean energy jobs announced last year according to the Clean Energy Works For Us: Q4 2014 Jobs Report by the Environmental Entrepreneurs’ (E2). More than 233,000 clean energy jobs have been announced in the United States since E2 started tracking them in 2011.

The Alcoa loan guarantee comes from the Department of Energy’s Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing (ATVM) program, which has a strong record of success. The program has helped create or preserve over 35,000 jobs through loans for fuel-efficient and electric vehicle technologies at Ford, Nissan and Tesla.

Alcoa marks the first automotive parts supplier to receive a loan but the company probably won’t be the last. Suppliers are very important for helping automakers rapidly adopt new, fuel-saving and low emissions technologies. Suppliers are on the front lines of innovation, developing and manufacturing advanced engine components, turbochargers, improved transmissions, lightweight structures, electronic controllers and electric-drive components like traction motors, advanced battery materials, and batteries.

The aluminum produced by Alcoa will replace heavier materials in new vehicles, enabling them to go farther on a gallon of gas and reduce their carbon pollution per mile. For example, in the latest version of the best-selling F-150 pickup truck, Ford substituted conventional steel with aluminum and advanced high-strength steel to reduce weight by up to 700 pounds. Ford claims that the design change improved vehicle towing and handling capabilities while reducing fuel consumption by up to 20 percent. Similarly, General Motors recently announced plans to shave 300 pounds from their popular Chevy Malibu sedan.

EPA Report: Automakers Ahead of Clean Car Standards

EPA has crunched the greenhouse gas emissions scores of model year 2013 cars and light trucks and the results look good. As part of the clean car and fuel economy program, EPA set standards that ratchet down tailpipe carbon pollution (measured in grams of CO2 per mile) from 296 g/mi in 2012 to 163 g/mi in 2025. For 2013, the auto industry average was 12 g/mi (equivalent to about 1.4 mpg) cleaner than the required standard for that year.

Cleaner cars use less fuel save consumers money at the pump. As the new EPA report reinforces, we’ve seen steady progress in the fuel economy of vehicles across the many types of cars and light trucks. The fuel savings give drivers more money to spend on goods other than gasoline, adding a welcome boost to the U.S. economy that helps create jobs along with the direct investments in the manufacturing fuel-efficient technologies.

Clearly, clean car and fuel efficient cars and jobs go hand-in-hand. The DOE-Alcoa partnership is a great example of how we can accelerate progress in addressing carbon pollution and reducing our oil dependence while ensuring that we continue to grow jobs in the United States. It’s great news.