As the automotive world goes electric, Alabama wants its automakers to keep up.
A new partnership between the University of Alabama, Alabama Power and Mercedes-Benz could make that possible.
The university’s board of trustees has approved the creation of the Alabama Mobility and Power Center, which its creators hope will be a premier research and development center to accelerate growth in the field of electric vehicles .
The move comes at a time when Mercedes has already committed $1 billion to expand its production of electric vehicles and plans to start manufacturing electric SUVs at its Tuscaloosa County plant next year. Other Alabama automakers are in the midst of similar moves. Alabama is the nation’s third-largest auto exporter, with $7.5 billion worth of Alabama-built vehicles and parts exported in 2018.
Michael Goebel, president and CEO of Mercedes-Benz US International, said the company should go all-electric by the end of the decade, market conditions permitting.
“Our site here in Alabama is among Mercedes-Benz sites on three continents that will build highly efficient electric vehicles and battery systems next year,” Goebel said in a statement. “Our partnership with the University of Alabama and Alabama Power through the AMP Center is a collaboration that will help position Alabama as a leader in electric vehicle innovation.”
UA President Stuart Bell called the center “an opportunity for talented scholars at the University to support leading industries in our state while increasing opportunities for our students to apply their skills here after graduation”.
The AMP center will be organized under the university’s Alabama Transportation Institute and will be housed in the Smart Communities and Innovation Building, which was announced earlier this year. The center would house faculty and staff experts supporting private and government investment in new battery technologies, as well as infrastructure to charge electric vehicles.
It will also focus on preparing the workforce through a national training center, collaborations with the auto industry, and seek to work with other Alabama automakers.
Under the partnership, Mercedes and Alabama Power will provide in-kind support, personnel and employee consultation on the projects. Students will also receive mentorship, internship, research and career opportunities.
“High-quality jobs are key to helping Alabamians live better lives, and this focused research center, focused on solving the challenges and capitalizing on the opportunities facing our state’s auto industry, is essential to driving our state’s economic growth,” Tony Smoke, senior vice president of marketing and economic development for Alabama Power, said.