What do workers do in the advanced transportation sector in Minnesota?

March 24, 2022
According to the 2021 Clean Jobs Midwest Report, advanced transportation was the fastest growing sector of jobs in the clean energy economy in Minnesota in 2020. Currently there are 3,252 Minnesotans employed in advanced transportation.

Advanced transportation in Minnesota

electric vehicle charging

According to the 2021 Clean Jobs Midwest Report, advanced transportation was the fastest growing sector of jobs in the clean energy economy in Minnesota in 2020. Currently there are 3,252 Minnesotans employed in advanced transportation. As of February 2021, there were EVs registered in every Minnesota county! The transportation sector, however, is also Minnesota’s largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, as Minnesotans rely on transportation to move people and products on a daily basis. Minnesota workers in advanced transportation work to improve existing technology and operations to increase the efficiency and reliability of electric vehicles (EVs), with the goals of cutting emissions and costs to increase adoption.

What do EV workers do?

Minnesota’s EV market is rapidly expanding as many consumers are becoming more and more interested in purchasing an electric vehicle. With rising gas prices and uncertainty in global markets, electric vehicles pose a promising solution while also cutting emissions and helping to meet Minnesota’s ambitious clean energy targets. In the past, many customers have shied away from the upfront cost of EVs and have expressed concerns about their range, lack of charging infrastructure and performance in Minnesota’s unique climate. The cost of electric vehicles has been a limiting factor for mass adoption, but these vehicles require fewer parts and run on renewable energy sources which ultimately lowers maintenance and fuel costs for the owners long-term. To meet the rising demand for EVs, many automobile manufacturers are electrifying their current product lines, which will hopefully decrease up-front costs. Workers in the advanced transportation sector work to fix all of these concerns and produce and deploy electric vehicles and charging infrastructure.

The electrification of existing fuel-based vehicles begins in the development stage.

A team of engineers, including electrical and chemical, sit down and design battery-based systems. The basic structure of the car remains the same, however, it is the internal processes that are updated with electrification. Because of this, training programs exist to educate engineers on vehicle manufacturing, making the EV industry accessible to many individuals who have previous electrical experience.

Once an EV’s design is approved, the vehicle moves into the manufacturing stage. During this phase, mechanical engineers and software developers work together to construct the physical vehicle. Mechanical engineers are responsible for the development and testing of the physical elements that go into the vehicle, such as the engine. With the electrification of various processes, software developers step in to implement the programs that distribute the required energy needed to power each vehicle. Engineers are also needed to build charging infrastructure for both homes and public use. Laborers are also required in this phase to assemble the vehicles and chargers.

electric vehicle charging

Statewide opportunities - both urban and rural

Increasing the accessibility of EV technology will ultimately lead to its widespread use and lower upfront costs. Installing infrastructure such as EV charging stations, for example, is one way to support individuals in transitioning to EVs. To have an equitable impact, these installations need to take place across the state, giving both urban and rural communities the infrastructure they need. Widespread installations will also create numerous job opportunities for construction workers statewide.

Working behind the scenes

Not all jobs in advanced transportation rely on the physical labor of manufacturing the vehicles or installing the chargers. Logistical and technical support are required to support the emerging amenities within the advanced transportation sector. These responsibilities range from administrative support for electric vehicles companies to overseeing and scheduling maintenance and safety checks of various equipment. These job opportunities are within the services sector and are viable options for those with administrative backgrounds.

As part of MnDOT’s Pathways to Decarbonizing Transportation in Minnesota report from 2019, the agency expressed its goal of cutting emissions 30% by 2025 and 80% by 2050. While the report details the need for more transportation options, it also acknowledges the role that rural economies play in this clean energy transition. By expanding biofuel infrastructure across the state, farmers can allocate any excess crop yield toward the biofuel economy and join the clean energy workforce.

Integrating the transportation sector with the energy efficiency and power generation sectors is one way to build a clean energy economy. In 2019, MnDOT released a study, the Minnesota Electric Vehicle Vision, that shows current transportation needs rely on $11 billion of fuel annually. Most of this fuel comes from outside of Minnesota. By increasing the reliance on local infrastructure and Minnesota’s electricity sector, there will be a larger demand for local jobs and employees.

Electric Vehicle Charging Station

Make your voice heard

Developing Minnesota’s advanced transportation sector requires a balance of immediate action and long-term planning. Electrifying vehicles and public utilities takes time, and many individuals are looking for immediate change. Many state reports, such as MnDOT’s Pathways to Decarbonization, are compiled based on public feedback and remarks.

Other opportunities to get involved are through various committees, such as the Sustainable Transportation Advisory Council (STAC). STAC works with the MnDOT Commissioner in advocating for a low-carbon transportation system that aligns with statutory goals and maximizes economic benefits. Meetings are open to the public and non-members, but Minnesotans can also apply to be a part of the council. With vocal support, Minnesota’s advanced transportation will continue to receive funding and support, ultimately creating more job opportunities for residents across the state.

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