Durbin urges Illinois to take the lead on electric vehicles with Rivian manufacturing plant in Normal

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NORMAL, Ill. (WMBD) — U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) on Friday urged Illinois to take the lead on electric vehicle development after visiting an electric vehicle manufacturing facility in Normal.

Since 2017, California-based electric vehicle maker Rivian has been repurposing and expanding the former Normal Mitsubishi plant into its first manufacturing plant.

Durbin said the plant will be making electric trucks, SUVs, and delivery trucks. Amazon has already ordered 100,000 delivery trucks. He said the time to act is now, and Illinois should lead the way.

“In my business, they say it’s better to catch wave than to try to start one. Well, I saw a wave last week that Illinois needs to catch,” Durbin said during the Friday presser, adding the Rivian plant is expected to create 2,500 jobs by the end of 2021.

President Joe Biden’s American Jobs Plan is proposing a $180 billion investment in research and development and another $174 billion investment in electric vehicles and charging stations.

“I hope that we catch this drift of what’s happening with this wave of electric vehicles. We are in front for a change instead of being behind,” Durbin said.

Venkat Srinivasan, director of energy storage research facility Argonne Collaborative Center for Energy Storage Science (ACCESS) and deputy director of Joint Center for Energy Storage Research (JCESR), said the United States needs to develop a domestic battery supply chain.

“We are in the midst of a dramatic transition in our energy system, moving away from fossil fuels toward clean energy… The U.S. does not produce enough lithium, nickel and cobalt to satisfy the growing demand for batteries. We are reliant on a complicated international supply chain to power our transition. We need to break this dependence,” he said.

Durbin said the International Brotherhood of Electric Workers Union is “leading the charge” to train workers and create a pipeline of talent to compete against China.

“If we don’t get serious, I mean really serious, the leading nation in the world for the production of electric vehicles will turn out to be China. That’s unacceptable to me, I don’t want America to come in second… China is out to take our lunchboxes away from us when it comes to this electric vehicle race. We can’t let that happen,” he said.

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