Georgia wants to be America’s hub for electric vehicles – batteries included

  • All eyes are on Georgia after the state landed electric vehicle factories for Rivian and Hyundai, which means thousands of jobs and billions of dollars in investment.
  • Additionally, Georgia marked an SK Innovation EV battery plant that opened in January, with plans to expand next year.
  • Volkswagen’s Chattanooga, Tennessee, plant will soon begin assembling ID.4 electric vehicles, and the automaker recently opened a battery engineering plant there (climate chamber pictured above).

    One of the big advantages of assembling battery electric vehicles close to the factories where their batteries are made is that the batteries can be charged and checked – no misfires – before loading them onto a truck or freight train. and avoid having to recharge them at the assembly plant. This reduces the need for battery storage space in automotive assembly plants that depend on just-in-time delivery.

    Much of BEV’s nascent production in North America is in assembly plants converted, or partially converted, from traditional internal combustion vehicle production, including Tesla’s first factory in Fremont, in California.

    New factories such as Tesla’s Cybertruck plant in Austin, Texas are a big prize for state governments willing to trade free land and tax incentives for thousands of blue-collar jobs. It’s a bipartisan victory, with Republicans stereotypically applauding the new venture and Democrats stereotypically applauding the green technology built in their home state.

    Last December, Rivian (and last May, Hyundai) announced plans to build all-new electric vehicle assembly plants in Georgia, which so far has only one auto assembly plant, manufacturing gasoline-powered Kias. Hyundai will spend $7 billion on an 8,500-employee assembly plant (which could also build ICE vehicles), and Rivian just landed $1.5 billion in incentives and land to build its assembly plant. of $5 billion and 7,500 employees in the state.

    Georgia had already signed a deal with battery supplier SK Innovation in 2019 for a 2,600-employee factory in exchange for $300 million in incentives and free land. The plant opened in January and another 400 people are expected to be hired by the end of 2023. SK is a subsidiary of SunKyong, which includes an oil refining division – it built the first oil refineries in Korea South, in 1962, according to a company website. SunKyong is believed to be the only oil-related company that is also getting into the electric vehicle business.

    Hyundai, Rivian, SK, and the smaller EV vendors that will inevitably appear make Georgia a potential ecosystem for EV production in the southeast. the Mercedes-Benz and Honda plants in Alabama; the Volvo and BMW plants in South Carolina; Volkswagen, Nissan and General Motors in Tennessee; and Ford, Toyota and GM in Kentucky may have reason to operate the Georgia EV hub before the end of the decade.

    “We’ve been very aggressive after electric vehicle production,” says Pat Wilson, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development. It started during the transition period between Governor Nathan Deal and Brian Kemp (both Republicans) in 2019, he says. Kemp and Wilson visited Mercedes-Benz and Porsche on a trade mission in January 2020 and came away impressed with Mercedes’ BEV projects.

    “Not only is electrification coming, but if you have Porsche, which has built some of the best engines in automotive history, going electric, it’s happening aggressively.” This visit resulted in a strategic initiative to create an electrification ecosystem.

    Of course, Wilson wouldn’t reveal any future deals with EV automakers, but he said Georgia has a lot of potential to expand its roster of suppliers.

    Construction continues in Spring Hill, Tennessee, where GM will assemble the Ultium batteries.

    General Motors

    Here are the other locations that have a chance of becoming hubs for emerging electric vehicle business:

    Michigan and Ohio: General Motors’ Hamtramck plant near Detroit will build the GMC Hummer EV, and nearby Orion Township will build the 2024 Chevrolet Silverado EV/GMC Sierra EV. Both are near the Lansing Township Ultium Battery Plant of GM in Michigan. Ultium batteries will also be built in Youngstown, Ohio, at a GM plant that was supposed to supply Lordstown Motors at the former Chevrolet Cruze plant. In Michigan, Ford Blue is building the F-150 Lightning at its Dearborn River Rouge plant, and a future Mustang EV is planned for Mustang’s Flat Rock conventional plant, while a Ranger EV is expected later this decade at WayneAssembly.

    South Carolina and Tennessee: Volvo has promised to go 100% EV by 2030, and there are unconfirmed reports that it will add production of a new EV model to its underutilized global S60 sedan assembly plant in Carolina. South. Similarly, Volkswagen’s Tennessee assembly plant has more capacity, and the German automaker will start producing its ID.4 EV there next month. Both are close enough to Georgia to take advantage of battery production from its suppliers.

    Wild Cards: The Ford Mustang Mach-e is assembled at the Cuautitlan plant with battery boxes from the Mexican company Nemak (known for its conventional engine blocks and cylinder heads). GM’s Cadillac Lyriq to be launched later this year will be assembled at the former Saturn plant in Spring Hill, Tenn., about 575 miles from Lansing Township or Youngstown. Given the likely difference in volume between Cadillac’s first EV and Saturn at its peak, there could be more space in the factory to store Ultium cells.

    Triangle Tesla: Tesla’s oldest assembly plant, the former NUMMI GM-Toyota plant in Fremont, Calif., is about 250 miles from its battery cell plant in Storey County, Nevada. The Cybertruck factory under construction in Austin, Texas, is 1,750 miles from Storey County, although Tesla also plans to manufacture batteries in Austin. Tesla’s use of small, smartphone-sized cells, however, makes storage and transport less of a problem.

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