The Fuse

Illinois Can Help Lead the Transportation Revolution

May 17, 2023

By Gen. Duncan J. McNabb

A transportation revolution is underway around the globe. The most significant shift in how people move from point A to point B since the transition from horse and buggy to Model T is beginning in earnest, bringing significant opportunities for Illinois and the Midwest.

SAFE’s mission is “accelerating the real-world deployment of secure, resilient, and sustainable transportation and energy solutions to the United States and its partners and allies.” We are collectively attacking this on every front to augment our abundant natural resources with advancing transformation technologies. Electric vehicles (EVs), electrification, and a new critical minerals strategy are essential to this revolution.

Thanks to bipartisan leadership in Washington, our nation is building a national EV charging network, ensuring we have the supporting infrastructure so critical to success. We must have a trustworthy experience for drivers from coast to coast to accelerate the EV revolution.

Moreover, the nation’s largest car manufacturers will be leading the way to ensure EVs are the choice of consumers around the world. GM has committed to building the capacity to manufacture 1 million EVs by 2025, while Ford is investing in selling 600,000 EVs by 2026.

Beyond EVs’ performance and technological advantages, they provide an enormous opportunity to realign global economic and military relationships for generations. As we create an alternative to our oil-based transportation system by investing in this new minerals-based model, we must seize the opportunity to decrease our Middle East entanglements and reduce the leverage petro-states such as Russia can wield over the Western world.

China has identified this transportation revolution as an opportunity and has a significant head start on building and buying the EV supply chain. We can’t allow this advantage to go unchallenged. The SAFE Center for Critical Minerals Strategy has concluded that the U.S. can meet our anticipated EV market growth by building supply chains that ensure mining, processing, recycling, and manufacturing are centered domestically and within the borders of nations who share our values and share our vision of a free and democratic society. With my military background, I won’t disguise my enthusiasm for this realignment.

More and more businesses and consumers are deciding that EVs meet their needs, strengthening our economic and energy security through increased fuel diversity. Major manufacturing investments are already underway, with federal policies such as the CHIPS Act supporting private-sector decision-making that could lead to more battery plant announcements for Illinois and other Midwest states, bringing jobs and opportunities to communities left behind by previous tech booms.

Medium- and heavy-duty fleets are also investing in electrified options for transportation and freight, and Illinois is realizing the economic benefits. Rivian is building the next generation of Amazon delivery vehicles in Normal. Electric school buses are rolling out of the Lion factory in Joliet, with box trucks soon to follow. Federal programs from the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law are jumpstarting the transition to electric school buses, while tax incentives included in the Inflation Reduction Act will do much to support fuel diversity in medium and heavy-duty vehicles.

As the global transportation revolution accelerates, Illinois is well-suited to lead the transition and secure the jobs and economic benefits which will follow.

Gen. Duncan J. McNabb, USAF (Ret) is the former commander of the U.S. Transportation Command, located at Scott Air Force Base, Ill. USTRANSCOM is the single manager for global air, land, and sea transportation for the Department of Defense (DOD). He is currently a member of SAFE’s Energy Security Leadership Council.