Indiana EV and AV Technology: Start your motors, drivers! The infamous call that officially starts the yearly Indianapolis 500 is well-known to racing enthusiasts. Indy 500 drivers have been starting their engines since 1911, and the state was second only to Michigan in terms of auto manufacture up until the Great Depression. Indiana has a lengthy history in both the racing and automotive industries. In the moment, Indiana is writing a new chapter in history as an influential figure in the field of mobility and a pioneer in the creation of autonomous and electric vehicles.
The creation of the nonprofit Battery Innovation Center (BIC) in the town of Newberry, according to David Roberts, EVP of Entrepreneurship and Innovation at the Indiana Economic Development Corporation (IEDC), served as the cornerstone for Indiana’s quick rise in the EV market. The facility, which is more than 30,000 square feet and was built in 2013, attracts staff from well-known corporations like Valvoline and researchers from prestigious engineering universities in the area including Purdue University and the Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology. In order to promote battery technology, the BIC also works with firms like Ateios, which recently relocated its headquarters from California to Indiana. Battery-cell construction, cell testing, and certification are all services that the BIC provides, according to Roberts. The state has seen a significant increase in battery development business as a result. It also enables that team to observe numerous technological developments. This collaboration is paying off: In May, Samsung SDI and Stellantis revealed plans to invest over $2.5 billion in the construction of a battery factory in Kokomo, Indiana. The factory is expected to generate 1,400 jobs and will be used to produce batteries for five million electronic vehicles by 2030.
In addition to having strong manufacturing capabilities, Indiana has built a whole ecosystem to support electric vehicles. This covers everything from obtaining raw materials and creating the anodes and cathodes—the electrons that enable EV batteries—to refurbishing and recycling battery technology (and giving it a second life). According to Paul Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Energy Systems Network, a charity that uses Indiana’s connections throughout the world to support the creation of integrated energy solutions, “they are expensive assets when they’re on a car.” “You can’t simply discard them. You’ll need to work out a way to procure, restore, and reinstall them on vehicles.
In Indiana, autonomous vehicles are yet another major invention. Energy Systems Network and the state welcomed researchers from all across the world to the Indy Autonomous Challenge last year, using the BIC as a model. A first-of-its-kind, fully autonomous racing competition featuring nine different teams from 21 universities was held at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to advance high-speed AV technology and, in the process, hasten the commercialization of advanced driver-assistance systems while enhancing safety and performance. In keeping with the state’s racing history, one team broke the autonomous speed record of 192 miles per hour during a test run this past April.
We are aware that autonomous technology can improve highway operations, according to Mitchell. And we are aware that it is capable of operating in high-speed racing situations. Finding use cases where automation technologies can be beneficial and advanced more quickly is what we’re attempting to do in Indiana, such as on highway logistics facilities, people movers, or specific mass transportation applications. The fact that automation need not always involve a passenger automobile transporting passengers must be acknowledged.
The Essence of Success
The strong technology workforce in Indiana, as well as traditional manufacturing workers who won’t require formal training to work on electronic vehicles, will aid the state in both mobility sectors. The capacity to quickly scale up output is made possible by this “reskilling,” which also results in significant labour cost savings. “Automotive professionals might receive new training to handle electric drive trains. If not, these folks would lose their jobs, according to Roberts. Since you’re already at full employment, it’s much simpler to teach individuals who would otherwise go without a job than it is to try to locate new employees there.
Another factor contributing to Indiana’s success in the industry, according to Roberts, is the state’s strong industrial partners. Indiana is already home to five original equipment manufacturers (OEMs): Stellantis, GM, Honda, Toyota, and Subaru. Future success will depend on not just those OEMs, but also a whole economic support structure that is tuned into the same objective in a field that is evolving quickly. The collaboration between business, academia, government, and the nonprofit sector must take place in a flywheel ecology, according to Roberts. And that ecosystem must be worldwide; it cannot exist in a bubble. It must enlist resources and knowledge from beyond of any one state’s or nation’s borders. And that was built in Indiana.
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