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Green Cars Could Create 300,000 U.S. Jobs by 2020, says Consultant

You want green jobs? Most people see an image of a worker installing solar panels, but how about building environmentally friendly cars? The adoption of plug-in hybrids and battery cars could create between 125,000 to 300,000 U.S. jobs by 2020, says management consulting firm PRTM.

PRTM sees a rapid ramp-up of what it calls "the worldwide electric battery-electric vehicle value chain"--$300 billion by 2020, creating more than a million jobs around the world. In the U.S., it said, another 100,000 to 150,000 jobs could be created if the aggressive roadmap of government support laid out by the Electrification Coalition (Nissan and Coda are members) is realized.

"Job creation could rise significantly over the more conservative estimates," says Oliver Hazimeh, PRTM's global e-mobility expert. In an interview, Hazimeh said that by 2020 "electric miles could be cheaper than oil miles." He pointed out that after 10 years on the road, hybrid cars have achieved only one percent market penetration, but battery cars could move much faster provided some hurdles are overcome.

These obstacles include high initial pricing, the need for networks of public charging stations, and overcoming "range anxiety" (the fact that EVs travel only 100 miles on a charge). One spur to faster EV spread would be front-loaded tax credits, Hazimeh said, of as much as $10,000 to $15,000 to offset the high cost of lithium-ion battery packs.

Hazimeh said that car-sharing services such as Zipcar can help spread EV adoption by allowing consumers to test them without a purchase. At the Copenhagen climate talks, for instance, a Norwegian car-sharer, Move About, has made its fleet of 15 plug-in Think cars available to delegates. According to Move About Chairman Jarle Froshaug, "With our 15 Think City cars we have the largest EV fleet here in Copenhagen, and we hope that many of the delegates, VIPs and media at COP 15 will 'walk the talk' and choose to ride with us, emissions free."

The Electrification Coalition's target is that, by 2040, 75 percent of all miles traveled will be "electric miles." By 2020, it says, 10 percent of new vehicle sales could be EV or "range extender" (like the Chevrolet Volt, which uses a gas engine to supply power to an electric motor).

According to PRTM, "Up to half of the jobs created in the U.S. could be manufacturing jobs....Accompanying the manufacturing jobs for electric vehicles will be new technical jobs involved with the design and development of the new electric drive systems and components. These jobs could contribute 10 to 15 percent of the new jobs in the U.S." PRTM also said that 35 percent of the new jobs created could be in support areas, such as operating and maintaining the charging infrastructure or providing customer service.

Another recent PRTM study, Bankruptcy and Consolidation in the Global Automotive Supply Industry, said that the U.S. auto supply base "is in a weak position relative to the rest of the world and will likely struggle to create jobs without a catalyst. Electric vehicles represent one opportunity to develop some core competencies that can spur U.S. job growth."

Also released today was a Global Climate Network report that said as many as 19.7 million energy-related jobs worldwide could be created as a result of policies to reduce carbon emissions. GCN is made up of nine think tanks, including the Center for American Progress (CAP).

According to Andrew Light, a senior fellow at CAP, "Transportation is the second-biggest contributor to carbon pollution, so there's no effective way the world can get to targets set by scientists on climate change without a big turnover of the global automobile fleet. And that turnover will create hundreds of thousands of new jobs and stabilize many jobs that exist now. Firms that are early adopters, that are smart about this, can breathe new life into the security of their industry."

The GCN report estimated that the stimulus package and the American Clean Energy and Security Act could help create as many as 1.9 million new green jobs. The move to a "smart grid" alone could create 270,000 jobs, and a further 138,000 if U.S. smart grid technologies are exported to a global market, the report said.

On the downside, a study from King Juan Carlos University in Madrid, Spain says that for every job created with energy price supports, 2.2 are lost in other industries. According to Gabriel Calzada, an economics professor at the university, each Spanish green job cost $774,000.

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