As electric vehicles gain popularity, technology and infrastructure are advancing quickly. President Biden’s plan to aggressively pursue transportation electrification means we’ll be seeing a big rise in electric vehicle manufacturing and new infrastructure projects.
The American Jobs Plan calls for an additional investment of $621 billion in transportation infrastructure and resilience, including the creation of good jobs in the electric vehicle industry.
We all know that climate change needs to be addressed quickly. The widespread adoption of electric cars and trucks would drastically cut carbon emissions. And aging US infrastructure desperately needs repair or replacement, making this a perfect time to transition to more sustainable, forward-looking strategies. But a key point to remember is that people will be impacted.
A balanced and thoughtful approach to modernizing infrastructure requires public participation over the entire course of this transformation, project after project. At the root of any initiative or issue there’s a person, a people, a community. Such extensive development will necessitate an ongoing dialog with the people who will find these projects in their back yards. The ability to keep individuals informed and manage their feedback over multiple projects can be a daunting task. This is where technology can help, by ensuring that you reach as many people as possible, making sense of community feedback, addressing concerns, and measuring the outcomes of your engagements.
New infrastructure can improve the livelihood of communities and bolster local economies. This massive investment in the automotive industry, transportation infrastructure, public transportation, and electric utilities is certainly welcome news. If the US automotive industry wants to be competitive on a global scale, we need to catch up on EV technology and manufacturing.
Stakeholder Engagement Challenges for the North American EV Industry
1. Demand for new skills in the workforce
Jobs are shifting toward more sustainable energy; particularly those in industries in steady decline, like coal mining. Likewise, most mechanics are currently not qualified to work on electric vehicles. It will be important to partner with Universities and vocational training schools to establish educational programs that meet the industry’s evolving needs. This will include working with labor unions to provide supplemental training for the existing workforce, and inspiring young people to consider these careers.
2. Supply chain issues, diversification and self-reliance
Recent supply chain interruptions have created shortages and long delays in a wide range of industries. COVID lockdowns and the recent blockage of the Suez Canal trade route by the Ever Given container ship have shown that the US needs to be able to provide for more of its own needs, and to do so in a sustainable way.
Sourcing materials can also be a matter of national security. There is a growing push in the US to source from allies who are close, not just in terms of geographic location, but also in common interests and values.
3. Brand management and public approval
Managing brand reputation is more and more complicated in an increasingly connected world. As market expectations increase, companies must be sure to meet their social responsibilities. Good corporate citizenship includes sustainable development and responsible sourcing. As the US works toward the goal of 100% clean electricity by 2035, the EV industry will need to focus on things like sustainable or low-impact mining and safe disposal of batteries in order to gain and maintain public approval.
Charging stations are not yet widely available. At this time, most are found in private garages and are largely inaccessible to people living in apartments.
5. Asset management
Millions of people are set to transition to electric vehicles in the coming years, and this will result in greater dependence on the electric grid. The Department of Energy predicts a 38 percent increase in electricity consumption by 2050. Not all state grids have sufficient capacity available with their existing infrastructure.
6. Battery efficiency
While electric vehicle batteries have come a long way, limited range per charge and long charging times still hinder adoption. A range of 400 miles per charge is still extremely rare, and some EV chargers can take nearly 8 hours to charge from empty to full. (Newer, faster chargers hope to charge batteries to 80% capacity in 30 minutes.)
The Right Tools for the Job
With so much at stake, the EV industry will need more than good intentions to address these challenges and get reluctant stakeholders on board. Teams engaging with large groups of stakeholders on multiple issues will also need more than spreadsheets to stay on top of the mountains of data they will inevitably compile.
Advanced stakeholder management software allows teams to carefully define strategies and then track their stakeholder engagement activities. Fit-for-purpose tools combined with the right methodology provide a structured process that allows progress and outcomes to be measured with certainty.
How Borealis Software Can Help the EV Industry Manage These Challenges
Borealis is built on proven stakeholder engagement methodology (Plan, Engage, Measure) and creates a structured framework for stakeholder engagement. Our software is used worldwide to manage engagement activities in industries ranging from mining and energy to transportation and government affairs. While the stakeholders and specific issues involved do vary from one industry to another, the best practices ensuring successful outcomes do not.
Here are just a few ways Borealis software can help the EV industry manage stakeholder engagement activities:
1. Sourcing materials locally and sustainably
As manufacturers work to create regional supply chains and source more materials within North America we will see an increase in mining activity. This will require successful community engagement and transparency to address public concerns and pressure for sustainable, responsible mining practices.
Stakeholder engagement teams can rely on Borealis to:
- Identify and map internal and external stakeholders in the supply chain.
- Plan engagement strategies for different stakeholder groups and link them to applicable tasks and workflows.
- Monitor key performance indicators to identify positive impacts and opportunities for improvement.
- Set up alerts and real-time notifications to ensure a quick response if environmental activities do not meet the necessary regulatory compliance standards.
- Demonstrate that a mine site is respecting Heritage Sites and Native Lands.
- Offer an open, anonymous channel for stakeholders to submit comments and concerns or file grievances.
2. Developing EV Infrastructure
This monumental task will require extensive stakeholder engagement. Where should charging stations be installed, and how can we be sure they benefit both consumers and businesses? Who will pay for this electricity consumption? What strategies need to be implemented to manage increased grid strain, particularly during peak charging times? These questions are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the EV infrastructure now being built.
Stakeholder engagement teams can use Borealis to:
- Overlay the geo-location data for individuals on a map alongside physical assets to identify project-affected stakeholders.
- Develop strategic engagement plans and associate them with tasks (like public consultations) to easily track project progress, key milestones, and budgets.
- Send and receive communications – including grievances – with thousands of stakeholders, and update their contact information with minimal effort.
3. Lobbying municipalities and governments to help establish regulations in an emerging industry
Extensive efforts will be required to influence, manage, and track the many new policies and regulations nationwide. Careful documentation is necessary in an ever-changing political landscape; government officials change frequently, and teams will need to engage with policymakers on a regular basis.
Stakeholder engagement teams can use Borealis to:
- Identify, assess, and map key government officials, lawmakers, and opinion builders to get a clear view of the influencer landscape, including who is for or against your causes.
- Develop lobbying plans and individual strategies for different stakeholder groups.
- Track all issues, engagement activities, and commitments for timely follow up.
- Access important information in real time, even on the go. Consult your complete, up-to-date dataset before an important meeting or public hearing so you’re ready to answer tough questions on the spot.
4. Protecting brand reputation and social license to operate (SLO)
These new infrastructure initiatives are certainly a step in the right direction, but the EV industry will still need to actively encourage consumers, industry, and government to embrace electric vehicles. Extensive public awareness campaigns will be necessary to educate and inform the public.
With Borealis, stakeholder engagement teams can:
- Automatically assess stakeholder influence and interest; generate maps to monitor changes over time.
- Plan and monitor community engagement activities, manage social risks, and resolve issues, disputes and grievances from a single application.
- Set KPIs, tasks and workflows. Assign tasks to appropriate team members to keep your efforts on track.
- Visualize the impacts of engagement activities and make adjustments as needed in real-time.
Advanced, fit-for-purpose software makes managing your stakeholder engagements much easier. Borealis centralizes stakeholder data and engagement activities in a single, always-accessible location, but it’s far more than a simple repository. Teams that use Borealis are able to focus on engaging with people rather than managing data. Borealis software brings structure, transparency, and traceability to your daily efforts, and helps you make better decisions with data-driven insights often lacking in the field of stakeholder engagement.
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