Auto workers worry it takes less labor to build electric cars. Maybe not, some researchers say

A traditional car engine is a complex wonder of engineering, with pistons moving up and down, springs compressing and decompressing, spinning shafts, opening and closing valves and spinning gears meshing together. That’s not to mention a transmission, connecting the engine to the wheels, that’s a complex machine all its own. An electric motor, on the other hand, is really just some magnets wrapped in wires and it only needs a single speed transmission. That simplicity worries the United Auto Workers union…

But making the powertrain of electric vehicles – the batteries, electric motors and power management systems – requires more total labor, not less, than that involved in making engines and transmissions, said Erica Fuchs, a labor researcher at Carnegie Mellon. She worked on the research paper with Cotterman that analyzed the labor requirements of electric versus gasoline powertrains.

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