Toyota reportedly focused on North Carolina site for new electric vehicle battery plant

Toyota Motor Corp. plans to invest billions of dollars in a battery plant to be built on the outskirts of Greensboro, North Carolina, as part of the automaker’s efforts to increase production of electrified vehicles in the United States, people say familiar with the question.

The automaker has not made a final decision, but is expected to partner with Panasonic Corp. in the factory, said some people, who declined to be named because the discussions are private. No formal commitments have been made and the plan could evolve further, the people said.

While the details of the plant’s ownership and operation are still unclear, it will likely be through the two Japanese companies’ battery joint venture, Prime Planet Energy & Solutions, one of the people said.

Toyota spokesman Hideaki Homma said nothing new has been decided regarding the company’s investments in batteries in the United States. Prime Planet spokesman Masato Tokuhisa said the company “is always looking at what’s best for our production,” without commenting on details. Panasonic spokeswoman Yayoi Watanabe declined to comment.

The plant is said to be the primary tenant of an industrial park called Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, which the Randolph County Economic Development Corporation describes as a 1,825-acre parcel of former agricultural land zoned for heavy industry and located near several interstate highways in the center of the state. Representatives of the site could not be reached for comment.

The North Carolina plant is said to be the latest in a series of announcements from major automakers turning to electrified powertrains. Ford Motor Co. and South Korean firm SK Innovation Co. announced in September that they would spend $ 11.4 billion on an electric vehicle assembly plant and a trio of battery plants in Tennessee and the Kentucky. Jeep maker Stellantis NV is considering a battery factory in the United States with Samsung SDI Co.

Prime Planet is a Japan-based battery manufacturer that officially started operations last year. Toyota owns 51% of the company, while Panasonic owns 49%. It currently claims the largest share – around 25% – of the hybrid battery market and is also looking to increase its presence in the battery sector for electric vehicles.

Toyota has been slower than its competitors in establishing an electric vehicle presence in the United States and adopting more stringent vehicle emissions standards. In October, the company pledged to invest $ 3.4 billion in auto batteries in the United States over the next decade, as part of a larger plan to allocate $ 13.1 billion to the development and production of batteries worldwide until 2030.

The Japanese company has been one of the fiercest critics of the bill in Congress backed by the Biden administration that favors electric vehicles made in American factories with a unionized workforce for the most generous subsidies.

Toyota, which operates 10 non-union factories in the United States, aims to start local battery production in 2025. The company announced last month that it would initially spend around $ 1.3 billion in collaboration with its business arm, Toyota Tsusho Corp., to develop land and build facilities, creating 1,750 jobs.

In a budget bill enacted Thursday by Governor Roy Cooper, the state is offering $ 135 million in aid to an unspecified manufacturer interested in the Greensboro industrial park and who will commit, among other things, to “invest at least $ 1 billion in private funds and create at least 1,750 eligible positions.

RT1 trucks are assembled and tested on April 14, 2021, before the full opening of the new Rivian plant in Normal, Illinois.  Rivian is preparing to manufacture models of electric trucks and SUVs at the former Mitsubishi plant.  (Brian Cassella / Chicago Tribune / TNS)

Additional funding of $ 185 million will be provided if the builder increases its investment to $ 3 billion and increases job creation to at least 3,875 eligible positions on the site, according to the bill.

A spokesman for North Carolina Senate Leader Phil Berger said the state does not comment on economic development plans until they are finalized.

Toyota announced in February that it would introduce two all-electric vehicles in the United States starting next year: a mainstream crossover called the bZ4X and a premium Lexus model built on the same platform. These will be his first fully battery-powered vehicles in the United States since he stopped producing an all-electric version of his best-selling RAV4 crossover seven years ago.

Siddharth Philip, Ed Ludlow and River Davis, Bloomberg

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