Oregon’s Electric Vehicle Cluster Rethinks its Image
April 18th, 2012
Though electric car companies have struggled to survive in the past, Oregon economic development leaders still believe it’s a market that holds tremendous potential for the state. The spotlight is now being shone on the possibility of Oregon building a robust supply chain for EVs. “Most of the economic development opportunity potential is in the supply chain,” said Jeff Allen, executive director for Drive Oregon, the state’s electric vehicle industry association. “We are focusing a lot more of our energy into those supply chain opportunities.”
Drive Oregon has commissioned a research study to assess the current state of the EV industry in Oregon. This study will take place over the next few months and will explore exactly how many companies are involved in the EV world, how many jobs the EV industry has created, the size of the payroll and what areas have the most promising growth opportunities.
The state’s strength in software and electronics manufacturing, particularly in the Portland area, is full of companies discovering skills applicable to the emerging EV market. Southeast Portland-based AIMCO has found new avenues of business specific to EV’s according to Ken Maio, the company’s business development manager. AIMCO has supplied tools to a Japanese company that assembled battery pack production lines for Nissan manufacturing plants in the UK and Tennessee. The company has also successfully marketed its tools for use in connecting the multiple cells that are strapped together to make an EV battery pack. Electric vehicle charging stations are working with AIMCO as well.
The city of Portland is working to help local companies make similar connections in the EV market. Last year the city received a $2.1 million federal Jobs and Innovation Accelerator Challenge Grant for clean technology advancement. Pam Neal, senior project coordinator the the Portland Development Commission, said the electric vehicle industry is part of that work. The PDC will host a “buyer-supplier” conference during next month’s Future Energy Conference.
Allen said Drive Oregon is on a similar mission to link regional companies up with major automakers and suppliers. “Let’s identify the folks who do have relationships with those large companies and how do we build on that and introduce them to some of our manufacturers here,” he said.
The supply chain, however, is not the only opportunity for Oregon. Major automakers have come to Oregon to break their electric vehicles into the consumer market. Allen believes it is possible to attract more of that attention. “There may still be some foreign companies in the EV space looking for an American beachhead,” he said. “There may still be some potential in convincing one of them to do that here.”
America uses 25% of the world’s oil, but is only 4.5% of the world’s population.