Automakers are scrambling to build new factories focused specifically on electric vehicle production, or trying to retool current assembly lines. The United Auto Workers (UAW) union is adapting to changing times as the big three Detroit automakers expand their efforts towards electric, with battery plants and production facilities spreading across the midwest.
GM auto workers started learning about EV manufacturing starting in 2015, with some employees training in South Korea. Although EV assembly closely mimics some gas-powered cars, including the installation of doors, brakes, tires, and seats - the lithium-ion battery that powers the engine and transmission powertrain comes with a bit of a learning curve.
Dealing with high-voltage electric cable connections and the like was another example of moving from ICE to EV production. Besides workplace training out on the line, GM also is using digital solutions so workers have training practice in a virtual environment.
Earlier in the year, UAW officials expressed their desire to unionize plants while the auto industry continues to adapt to changing times. Although the changes will take getting used to, there is room for the assembly line workers, their unions, and the automakers to figure out how to co-exist in the EV transition.
Not surprisingly, there is some concern related to factory automation - and loss of jobs, though the push towards EV might actually lead to the addition of jobs. As said by David Michael, communications coordinator for UAW Local 5960, said in a CNBC interview: "Historically, there's always been anxiety around the loss of jobs, but since EVs have found their way into the Big Three [assembly plants], we're understanding more about them."
Last month, GM announced plans to invest $760 million at a Toledo, Ohio manufacturing facility that will create drive units for GM electric trucks. The automaker will continue to work with the UAW to retrain employees and further prepare them as EVs remain a significant priority.