$2.3 billion battery plant in Tennessee to add 1,300 jobs

GM and LG venture in Spring Hill adds to electric vehicle juice in state's economy

AP Photo/General Motors Vehicles are assembled at the General Motors manufacturing plant in Spring Hill, Tenn. A 2.8 million-square-foot plant will go up next to the auto plant to make batteries for EVs.

Tennessee's economy is continuing to get charged up by the automotive shift to electric vehicles.

With three auto assembly plants in the state already making or about to make EVs, a joint venture between General Motors and LG Energy Solutions announced Friday it will build a $2.3 billion battery production facility next to the GM plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, and add 1,300 new manufacturing jobs.

"We are taking bold steps necessary to accelerate toward an all-electric future and to support our vision of zero crashes, zero emissions and zero congestion," said GM CEO Mary Barra at a news conference in Nashville.

The partnership between GM and LG Energy known as Ultium Cells LLC will build a 2.8 million-square-foot plant next to GM's auto plant in Spring Hill.

Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee declared the new battery plant project "the largest single investment of economic activity in the state's history" while praising the project.

"This partnership with General Motors will transform Tennessee into another key location for electric vehicle and battery production," Lee said.

Volkswagen in Chattanooga and Nissan in Smyrna, Tennessee also are shifting more to EVs with battery-powered models, making Tennessee one of the biggest producers of electric vehicles in the country.

Friday's announcement of the new battery plant by GM and LG in Spring Hill - one of the biggest industrial investments ever in Tennessee - came just five days after LG announced a $1.8 billion settlement of a trade secrets dispute with its South Korean rival SK Innovation to allow SK to proceed with plans for a $2.6 billion battery plant in Jackson County, Georgia. The SK Innovation plant is one of the biggest economic development projects in Georgia and will supply batteries for Volkswagen's new battery-powered SUV to be assembled in Chattanooga in 2022.

The Spring Hill battery plant is scheduled to begin production by 2023. The joint venture already is building the Ohio plant, which will employ about 1,100 people.

GM has previously announced that the Cadillac Lyriq electric SUV will be built at the Spring Hill complex. The SUV, due in showrooms during the first half of 2022, will go an estimated 300 miles (482 kilometers) per charge.

GM is likely to need far more battery capacity if it's able to deliver on a goal of converting all of its new passenger vehicles from internal combustion engines to electricity by 2035.

Industry analysts have said automakers face a global shortage of batteries as the industry moves away from gasoline powered vehicles. Most of the world's batteries are built in China and other countries.

"It will allow us to build solid and stable U.S-based supply chains that enable everything from research, product development and production to the procurement of raw components," LG Energy Solution President and CEO Jonghyun Kim said. "Importantly, I truly believe this coming together transcends a partnership as it marks a defining moment that will reduce emissions and help to accelerate the adoption of EVs."

Lee declined to detail how much the state had provided in incentives but said that information would come out soon.

"We will accommodate the companies as they determine what strategies they're going to take for manufacturing," Lee told reporters. "The demand for their products is enormous, we think this is a very wise investment."

Barra said GM's proprietary Ultium battery technology is at the heart of the company's strategy to compete for nearly every EV customer in the marketplace, whether they are looking for compact cars, luxury vehicles, work trucks, commercial trucks or high-performance machines.

Ultium batteries are unique in the industry because the large-format, pouch-style cells can be stacked vertically or horizontally inside the battery pack. This allows engineers to optimize battery energy storage and layout for each vehicle design. Energy options range from 50 to 200 kilowatt hours, which could enable a GM-estimated range up to 450 miles or more on a full charge with 0-60 mph acceleration in 3 seconds1.

GM's future Ultium-powered EVs are designed for Level 2 and DC fast charging. Most will have 400-volt battery packs and up to 200 kW fast charging capability while GM's truck platform will have 800-volt battery packs and 350 kW fast charging capability.

General Motors has made several announcements in the last 18 months that underscore its commitment to an all-electric, zero-emissions future, including:

GM committed more than $27 billion to EV and AV product development, including $7 billion in 2021, and plans to launch 30 EVs globally by the end of 2025, with more than two-thirds available in North America. Cadillac, GMC, Chevrolet and Buick will all be represented, with EVs at all price points for work, adventure, performance and family use.

In October, 2020, GM announced it would invest $2 billion in its Spring Hill, Tennessee assembly plant to begin the transition to become the company's third vehicle manufacturing site to produce electric vehicles, joining Factory ZERO in Detroit and Hamtramck, Michigan, and Orion Assembly in Orion Township, Michigan. The all-new Cadillac Lyriq will be the first EV produced at GM's Spring Hill assembly plant. Production of the Cadillac XT6 and XT5 will continue at Spring Hill.

In Chattanooga, VW is investing $800 million to expand its assembly plant to build the ID.4 electric SUV. The VW expansion includes a 564,000-square-foot addition to the body shop where workers will build both internal combustion engine vehicles and EVs on the same assembly line.

Also, the company is building a 198,000-square-foot facility adjacent to its factory for the assembly of battery packs for EVs.

After the expansion, the Chattanooga factory will have capacity to build more than 100,000 EVs annually, according to the automaker. The company has pledged to hire another 1,000 employees in the expansion. The plant will continue to assemble the Passat sedan and Atlas and Atlas Cross Sport SUVs.