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UA-led electrical vehicle project wins $1M planning grant

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The University of Alabama is in the spotlight for its plans on developing electric vehicles. A proposal led by UA to strengthen the South's role in production and support of EV’s was recently awarded a $1M grant.

The funding from the National Science Foundation will be used to create economic, societal and technological opportunities in the region.

Michael Oatridge is the executive director of the Alabama Mobility and Power Center at UA. He said Alabama partnered with University of Georgia and Mississippi State University for the project. The team is allowed a two-year planning period from the grant.

“The primary goal of this project is to drive EV adoption and to domesticate the EV industry. So unfortunately, most of the batteries that power EV’s, almost all of them are coming from overseas from China from Korea from Japan,” Oatridge explained. “There is very little domestic battery industry in the United States. So, we think this group of states can really offer not only the R1 research facilities, but also the workforce initiatives, economic development initiatives to domesticate a battery industry here,” he continued.

Oatridge said the state of Alabama is well-positioned to become a major player in the global EV market and partnering with universities in the region also helps propel the South forward. He also said the economic development benefits will be shared across the three states.

“This allows us to have a regional approach to doing research surrounding the EV market, and also market the Southeast as an area for expansion of EV components, recycling, and battery manufacturing,” Oatridge explained. “And as that battery industry grows, then of course, the economic development benefits will be shared.”

Oatridge said the role student’s play in this project are critical. He said as battery science knowledge grows, then the Southeastern region will become more attractive to economic development opportunities, which will provide work and career opportunities for students.

“The biggest problem we have in the United States, as it comes to the EV industry, is that we really haven't been involved in the battery side of it to any great extent,” he explained. “So, by creating research centers at the three universities and building curriculum around the research, we're going to start to build knowledge of battery science.”

UA and its partners will continue to compete alongside 40 other teams for up to $160M.

Baillee Majors is the Morning Edition host and a reporter at Alabama Public Radio.
Saylor Collum is a student intern in the Alabama Public Radio newsroom. She majors in Public Relations and English at the University of Alabama. She has a love for writing and storytelling. In her spare time, she enjoys travelling, attending concerts and being involved in her church.

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