Rendering of the 1500-acre BlueOval SK Battery Park underway in Glendale, Kentucky. (Ford)

The first half of 2022 is continuing last year’s raft of automaker investments in lithium-ion battery manufacturing and development in the U.S., with Stellantis and the Hyundai Group the latest companies to stake out multibillion-dollar facilities. The same trend is underway in Europe, where many of the continent’s automakers also have made significant battery-production plans in America.

Exterior of the Mercedes-Benz battery factory near the company’s vehicle assembly plant in Tuscaloosa, Alab. (Mercedes-Benz)

Stellantis, deemed by many a slowpoke in the accelerating runup to vehicle electrification, was the latest to announce EV battery production, confirming in late May that it formed a joint venture with Samsung SDI that will invest $2.5 billion to manufacture lithium-ion battery cells and modules based on Samsung’s “PRiMX” technology at a new facility in Kokomo, Indiana. The companies said initial production volume, to begin in the first-quarter 2025, is targeted at 23 gigawatt-hours (GWh), rising to 33 GWh “in the next few years.” The site’s total capacity “would increase further as demand for Stellantis electric vehicles is expected to rise,” the companies said in a release.

Samsung unveiled its PRiMX brand at CES 2022. The chemistry is based on a high-nickel cathode and silicon anode and was designed incorporate intrinsic quality via a process, the company said, that “conducts a strict quality inspection, such as selecting materials and design that can improve battery quality at the development phase, advancing the defect detection algorithm with the deep learning-based AI test at the manufacturing and shipping phase, and examining about 500 quality items throughout the entire manufacturing process.”

As with many global automakers, Mercedes-Benz has established several global sites for EV battery production and assembly. (Mercedes-Benz)

The PRiMX silicon-anode battery chemistry promotes “super-fast charging” and minimizes “the lithium-ion transport distance and time by reducing resistance inside the battery cell,” Samsung claims.

The new Indiana joint-venture plant won’t be Stellantis’ only North American battery-production site. In March 2022, Stellantis created a joint venture with South Korean battery developer LG Energy Solution to build a battery-manufacturing facility of about 45 GWh capacity in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, which is in proximity to Detroit and several Stellantis vehicle-assembly plants. The company said it intends to annually sell five million EVs globally by 2030, with EVs comprising 100% of its European lineup and 50% of the U.S. model range. To reach that target, Stellantis projects the need for some 400 GWh of battery-production capacity and plans to reach that goal with five battery plants worldwide and “additional supply contracts.”

U.S. plants proliferate

Lithium-ion battery pack manufacturing underway at the Mercedes-Benz battery production facility in Alabama. (Mercedes-Benz)
Rendering of the GM-LG Energy Solutions joint-venture battery production facility scheduled to come on line in 2023 at Spring Hill, Tenn. (GM)

Just prior to the announcement of Stellantis’ Indiana facility, Hyundai Motor Group confirmed it reached agreement with the state of Georgia to develop a greenfield site for both a new EV-assembly plant and a battery-manufacturing plant. The battery production facility “will be established through a strategic partnership,” Hyundai said in a release. The new vehicle production site will have capacity for 300,000 units, the company said, suggesting battery-making capacity might be aligned with that output.

Hyundai said the new vehicle-assembly plant will manufacture a range of EVs as the company has set an annual global EV sales target of some 3.2 million units by 2030. Vehicle manufacturing is projected to begin in the first half of 2025, while the presence of the battery manufacturing plant “aims to establish a stable supply chain and build a healthy EV ecosystem in the U.S.” Noted Jaehoon Chang, president and CEO of Hyundai Motor, “This new EV plant is the future of our business, and it will help us meet the growing demands of our U.S. customers who want leading-edge design, safe, zero-emissions vehicles now and in the future.”

In September 2021, Ford presented more of its battery-production strategy when it announced plans for “a technologically advanced battery manufacturing campus” in Glendale, Kentucky. Built in conjunction with battery-development partner SK Innovation, the Glendale plant is set to produce batteries for next-generation Ford and Lincoln EVs. Production at the so-called BlueOval SK Battery Park is earmarked to begin in 2025. Ford said the $5.8 billion, 1,500-acre complex is strategically located near two key existing vehicle manufacturing sites: Louisville Assembly Plant and Kentucky Truck Plant.

SK Innovation already has committed to two other battery manufacturing plants in the U.S. One in Georgia is under construction, representing an investment of nearly $1 billion and is reported to have its output targeted for the Volkwagen Group assembly plant in Chattanooga, Tenn. The plant’s capacity is estimated to be enough to supply roughly 250,000 units of EV production. A second plant at the site reputedly will produce up to 50 GWh of battery packs.

In the spring of 2022, Mercedes-Benz said it was prepared to bring online a new battery-production facility in Alabama, near its vehicle-assembly plant in Tuscaloosa. The company is partnering with Envision AESC, a leading battery technology company, which will supply the Mercedes-Benz battery factory in Bibb County with battery modules “from a new plant within the U.S. Supplies will commence from mid-decade, the company said. Mercedes-Benz did not indicate the capacity of the new battery plant, but said the batteries are earmarked for the EQS, the brand’s first electric SUV.

General Motors runs partially counter to the southern-U.S. battery-assembly stratification with its Ultium Cells LLC assembly plant in Lordstown, Ohio, to build the company’s Ultium lithium-ion batteries. The joint-venture plant, operated in conjunction with partner LG Chem, is earmarked invest up to $2.3 billion to annually assemble more than 30 GWh of total battery capacity. Groundbreaking occurred in mid-2020 and “the plant will be extremely flexible and able to adapt to ongoing advances in technology and materials,” GM said in a statement, adding that the new joint venture would “drive cost per kilowatt hours to industry-leading levels.”

The Lordstown site is joined by a second Ultium Cells facility near GM’s vehicle-assembly plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. The site investment also is $2.3 billion and a joint venture with LG Energy Solution. Output at the 2.8-million sq.-ft. plant is scheduled to begin in 2023. GM has not disclosed projected GWh capacity for the site.