DeWine, Husted visit Ultium Cells as production begins
LORDSTOWN — Ultium Cells already has started to make electric-vehicle battery-cells for General Motors from the part maker’s next-gen factory here with the plan to begin shipping cells that will be part of several GM EV models by the end of the year.
“It’s been a journey … we broke ground in April 2020, and we really are entering early phase start of production,” Tom Gallagher, vice president of operations for Ultium Cells, said. “We have a portion of our capacity installed and are preparing to being able to support our customer with cells. It’s an exciting time and we continue to grow our workforce as part of that.”
Early-phase production started in May and ramped to the production launch in August. The factory employs about 800 now and expects to well exceed the 1,100 workers the company anticipated it would need, Gallagher said.
“Our focus right now is training the workforce as we enter the start of production phase,” Gallagher said. “It’s really an exciting period of time because to do that we are going to operate multiple crews of people, so it’s not just a matter of training a single team. We have to train people on the entire process.”
Full production is targeted for late 2023.
The batteries will go into vehicles with GM’s Ultium batteries, which currently include Hummer EVs, Chevrolet Silverado EV pickups 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 moves to zero emissions and full electrification.
The massive plant on state Route 45 is the first factory to be 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 square feet is large enough to contain 30 football fields.
The state contingent got to see first-hand parts of the cell manufacturing process.
“This is very, very exciting to see this. It shows where the Mahoning Valley is going, it shows where the state of Ohio is going and if you look at this from the big picture, Ohio has always been a great automotive state,” DeWine said. “We’re not only a great car producer, but automotive parts, and it’s very important as we make this transition to electric that a plant like this be here.”
Husted said the high-tech manufacturing plant lived up to the hype.
“I don’t know that I have ever seen a more high-tech automated process than we just had the opportunity to witness,” Husted said.
DeWine also briefly touched on accelerating electric-vehicle development in Ohio, including the chance the state will land another EV battery-cell plant, this one near Marysville, where Honda has a factory.
The new plant is a joint venture between Honda and LG Energy Solution that was announced Monday.
DeWine confirmed there have been discussions.
“A lot of good things are happening,” he said. “As we move over time to electric vehicles, Ohio is not only well-positioned, but we are executing. We are getting these companies who are looking to Ohio, who are coming to Ohio, who are building in Ohio. We’re going to continue to be very, very aggressive.”
The plant should help GM’s EVs meet requirements to qualify for a $7,500-per-vehicle federal tax credit.
Under the Inflation Reduction Act recently signed into law, electric vehicles and their batteries must be manufactured in North America to get the credit. Battery minerals must be mined or recycled on the continent as well, or half the tax credit would be lost. And the batteries can’t have any components from China, another difficult hurdle.
The requirements are designed to build a North American supply chain for EVs so the country isn’t reliant on China and other countries.
GM says it’s working to meet the requirements. The Ohio plant built with battery maker LG Energy Solution is a step toward getting the credits, which are key to boosting electric -vehicle sales. No automaker wants to put EVs on the market that cost $7,500 more than the competition.
GM has a goal of making only electric passenger vehicles by 2035, and CEO Mary Barra has pledged to unseat Tesla as the top seller of EVs by the middle of this decade.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.