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The Palmetto State is Powering the Future

South Carolina drives electric vehicle innovation forward. 

By Kim Madlom on September 27, 2022

A large fountain surrounds the entrace to the Zentrum BMW Museum which is located at the BMW Manufacturing Production Facility in Greer, South Carolina. The Zentrum recently re-opened on October 17, 2017 after nearly a year under construction.
Jeff Adkins

While nicknamed “The Palmetto State,” South Carolina might as well be called “Car Country.” Approximately 74,000 South Carolinians work for companies related to the automotive industry, and with the sector investing more than $27 billion in the state since 1994, it shows no signs of slowing down. As a result, the state is home to 36.6% of the country’s market share of exported tires and nearly 20% of its market share of exported passenger vehicles, according to the South Carolina Department of Commerce’s 2021 International Trade Report. These numbers mean South Carolina leads the nation in tires and completed passenger motor vehicle exports. 

#1

State of export sales of both tires and completed passenger vehicles

BMW produces 1,500 vehicles a day at its South Carolina operations, Volvo’s Ridgeville plant is working toward a goal of 150,000 cars annually, and Mercedes-Benz Vans in Ladson has assembled more than 260,000 Sprinter and Metris vans since opening in 2018. 

Long a leader in auto production, South Carolina is taking its skills to new levels with electric vehicle (EV) development. Oshkosh Defense, Volvo, BMW, Proterra and Bintelli LLC are all investing in EV projects in the state. 

74,000 

South Carolinians employed in the automotive industry. 

Great Growth  

Oshkosh Defense is investing $155 million in the state to produce next-generation delivery vehicles for the U.S. Postal Service, creating 1,000 jobs. The company will manufacture zero-emission battery electric vehicles and fuel-efficient, low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles that will replace the Postal Service’s existing fleet of delivery vehicles. 

36.6% 

South Carolina’s market share of tires exported from the U.S.

“We’re proud to bring this historic undertaking to Spartanburg County,” says John Bryant, Oshkosh Defense president. “South Carolina has a skilled workforce and a proven history in advanced automotive manufacturing. It’s the perfect place to produce the NGDV (next-generation delivery vehicle). More importantly, we know the people of the Upstate take pride in their work and their community. What we build together here will reach every home in the country.” 

Other critical investments include Volvo’s $118 million to create the electric Polestar 3 and BMW’s decision to produce two plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the BMW X3 xDrive30e and BMW X5 xDrive45e, at its S.C. facilities. 

BMW associates using the Eksobionics device in South Carolina.
Fred Rollison Photography

An EV Pro 

Additionally, while Proterra has been producing electric buses at its Greenville facility since 2010, the company announced a $76 million investment in a new Greer facility to make EV battery systems for commercial electric vehicles, including delivery and work trucks, industrial equipment, buses and more. 

“Electric vehicle technology is an opportunity to create clean energy jobs, strengthen American manufacturing and advance the U.S.’s climate leadership on a global scale,” says Proterra CEO Gareth Joyce. “Through opening our new battery system production plant, Proterra is proud to help realize these important goals while driving the transition to clean, quiet transportation with our EV technology. With our company’s history in South Carolina and the Upstate region, we are excited to build on our strong partnership with the state of South Carolina, Spartanburg County and the city of Greer and bring EV battery system manufacturing to the region.”

133,000

Tires produced each day in South Carolina

Proterra and Vicinity Motor Corp., a North American supplier of commercial electric vehicles, have struck a deal in which Proterra’s battery technology will power Vicinity’s electric transit buses and work trucks. 

Expanding & Investing

Meanwhile, Bintelli LLC, a manufacturer and distributor of mopeds, scooters and electric vehicles, is expanding in Charleston County, investing $455,000 and creating 72 jobs. 

“Since relocating Bintelli from Florida in 2015, the company has experienced tremendous growth,” says Bintelli LLC President Justin Jackrel. “This most recent expansion has tripled our electric vehicle manufacturing output over last year.” 

Jackrel says demand for Bintelli Beyond and Bintelli Nemesis electric vehicles is high, and he expects 2022 to be another record-breaking year. 

9,081 

automotive jobs were created in the state between 2017 and 2021

Bintelli’s offers more than 40 customizable electric vehicles, including golf carts, shuttles, street-legal golf carts, low-speed vehicles, and Americans with Disabilities Act-compatible shuttles, along with parts and accessories. 

Looking ahead, China’s Contemporary Amperex Technology Co. Limited, the world’s largest battery maker, is looking for a U.S. location to build EV batteries. South Carolina is on its list of potential sites. If chosen, it’s anticipated that battery production would begin in 2026. 

Student working in the workshop at Trident Technical College, which is in South Carolina.
Trident Technical College

All REVVED Up

A new consortium called Collaborative Research: REVVED (Revolutionizing Electric Vehicle Education) will help develop workers with the skills to build and service autonomous and electric vehicles and protect them through cybersecurity. Behind the consortium are Clemson University, Greenville Technical College, Spartanburg Community College and Trident Technical College, as well as economic development centers and industry partners such as BMW, Bosch, Daimler, Michelin, Proterra and Volvo. 

To get things started, REVVED received $2.83 million in 2022 from the National Science Foundation to fund the project.  

“The goal is to develop an innovative curriculum for the EV manufacturing and service industry and to educate future technicians,” says David Hansen, director of public information at Trident Technical College

Officials are ironing out goals and what classes to offer, such as composites, cybertechnology and more. 

If you’d like to learn more about South Carolina, check out the latest edition of South Carolina Business Climate

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