LORDSTOWN – Ultium Cells has already started manufacturing electric vehicle battery cells for General Motors from the parts maker’s next-generation plant here with plans to start shipping cells that will be part of several GM EV models by the end of the year.
“It’s been a journey…we started in April 2020 and we’re really entering the early start-up phase of production,” Tom Gallagher, vice president of operations for Ultium Cells, said. “We have installed part of our capacity and are preparing to be able to support our customer with cells. It’s an exciting time and we continue to grow our membership in this environment.
Phase one production began in May and ramped up to the start of production in August. The plant currently employs about 800 people and expects to well exceed the 1,100 workers the company had anticipated needing, Gallagher said.
“Our focus right now is to train the workforce as we enter the start-up phase of production,” Gallagher said. “It’s really an exciting time because to do this we’re going to be running multiple teams of people, so it’s not just about forming one team. We have to train people on the whole process.
Full production is scheduled for the end of 2023.
The batteries will go into vehicles equipped with GM’s Ultium batteries, which currently include Hummer EVs, Chevrolet Silverado EV pickup trucks and the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV.
Ultium Cells is a joint venture between GM and South Korea’s LG Energy Solution to mass-produce EV battery cells for the automaker as it transitions to zero emissions and full electrification.
The massive factory on State Route 45 is the first factory built by Ultium Cells. Another is under construction in Tennessee while a third has been announced for Michigan. A fourth is planned, but its location has not been announced.
On Wednesday, Gov. Mike DeWine, Lt. Gov. Jon Husted and JP Nauseef, president of JobsOhio, the state’s private, nonprofit economic development corporation, toured the facility, which at 2.8 million feet squares is large enough to hold 30 football pitches.
The state contingent got to see parts of the cell manufacturing process firsthand.
“It’s very, very exciting to see this. It shows where the Mahoning Valley is going, it shows where Ohio State is going and if you look at it as a whole, Ohio has always been a great automotive condition, said DeWine. “We are not only a major producer of cars, but also of auto parts, and it is very important, as we make this transition to electric, that a factory like this is here.
Husted said the high-tech manufacturing plant lived up to the hype.
“I don’t know if I’ve ever seen a more high-tech automated process than the one we just had the opportunity to witness,” Husted said.
DeWine also briefly touched on accelerating EV development in Ohio, including the possibility of the state landing another EV battery cell plant, this one near Marysville, where Honda has a plant. .
The new plant is a joint venture between Honda and LG Energy Solution which was announced on Monday.
DeWine confirmed that there had been talks.
“A lot of good things are happening” he said. “As we transition over time to electric vehicles, Ohio is not only well positioned, but we’re executing. We’re getting these companies looking to Ohio, coming to Ohio, building in the Ohio We’re going to continue to be very, very aggressive.
The plant is expected to help GM electric vehicles meet the requirements for a federal tax credit of $7,500 per vehicle.
Under the recently enacted Inflation Reduction Act, electric vehicles and their batteries must be manufactured in North America to earn the credit. Battery minerals must also be mined or recycled on the mainland, otherwise half of the tax credit would be lost. And batteries can’t have components from China, another tough hurdle.
The requirements are designed to build a North American supply chain for electric vehicles so that the country is not dependent on China and other countries.
GM says it is working to meet the requirements. The Ohio plant built with battery maker LG Energy Solution is a step toward securing the credits, which are key to boosting sales of electric vehicles. No automaker wants to bring electric vehicles to market that cost $7,500 more than the competition.
GM aims to make only electric passenger vehicles by 2035, and CEO Mary Barra has pledged to overthrow Tesla as the top seller of electric vehicles by the middle of this decade.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.