Summer 2022

Lithium-ion batteries for your EV? Try solid-state batteries

In recent years, car giants such as Ford, Mercedes and Nissan have been trying to overcome the shortcomings of batteries that power electric vehicles by racing to produce a next-generation battery. In all cases of lithium-ion batteries, they underperformed even after billions were invested in their development. Not only that, the liquid electrolytes used in the batteries are prone to catching fire.

Enter a new player in the fourth quarter of electric vehicle power development. Many if not all existing and startup EV and battery manufacturers are now rallying around solid-state batteries, which do not contain liquid electrolytes and can charge quicker and last longer.

Rivian incentive deal approved by Morgan County, Ga., board

A Morgan County, Ga., board signed off in June on a property rental agreement that’s a centerpiece of the $1.5 billion incentive package offered to electric vehicle maker Rivian. The 4-1 vote means the Morgan County Board of Assessors ruled the rental agreement, known as a usufruct, does not make Rivian’s interest in the property taxable. In essence, the decision will allow Rivian to rent the land and future factory buildings on the nearly 2,000-acre site without paying typical property taxes.

The rental agreement is one of several components of Rivian’s incentive package — and by far the largest — providing some $700 million in property tax savings over the 25-year term. Under the terms of the agreement, Rivian will pay more than $300 million over 25 years to local governments and school systems under a payment in lieu of taxes agreement or PILOT.

Volkswagen chief says German car giant will overtake Tesla on EV sales by 2025

The chief executive of Volkswagen believes Europe’s biggest carmaker can overtake Tesla to become the world’s largest seller of electric vehicles by 2025. Speaking to CNBC’s “Squawk Box Europe” at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Herbert Diess said alleviating supply chain issues would likely help create some momentum for the German auto giant over the coming months.

Nissan mulling third auto plant in US to meet electric vehicle demand

Nissan is considering adding a new auto plant in the U.S. to keep up with growing demand for electric vehicles, a top executive at the Japanese automaker said. “It may not be a surprise that we go for a third plant,” Chief Operating Officer Ashwani Gupta told reporters at Yokohama headquarters. Nissan Motor Co. now has two auto plants in the U.S. One in Canton, Miss., makes the Titan pickup truck and Altima sedan, among other models. The other in Smyrna, Tenn., makes the Leaf electric car, Pathfinder sport utility vehicle and other models. Each of the plants employ thousands of workers and has produced millions of Nissan vehicles. The third plant would not just be an added assembly line to an existing plant, but a totally new facility, although it may be built as an extension of an existing plant, Gupta said.

Letter to the Editor

“My friend, your prediction more than 20 years ago of the South becoming the center of auto manufacturing in North America has now taken another giant step forward. The announcement that Hyundai will build its first electric car plant in Georgia confirms it in this new era. I will take lucky and good every time.”

J. Mac Holladay

CEO, Market Street Services, Atlanta, Ga.

New research shows American workers not better off with less foreign-born workers

Former President Trump’s intentional depletion of legal immigrant visas and the COVID-19 pandemic reduced legal immigration in the U.S. by as much as 80 percent to just 250,000 in 2020. But, according to research, U.S. workers were not better off with the reduction in immigration. In fact, the lack of foreign workers helped create worse economic conditions. The lack of labor has created worker shortages, school closures, empty shelves in stores, shorter hours in retail and hospitality, skyrocketing childcare costs and the inability of many companies to fill open positions. According to Madeline Zavodny, an economics professor at the University of North Florida and a former economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta, the reduction in workers as a result of COVID and cuts in immigration showed no evidence that less foreign workers improved economic outcomes of U.S.-born workers.

World’s largest truck maker says it’s facing enormous supply chain pressure

Supply chain disruptions are still rippling across the globe, and the head of the world’s largest truck maker has warned that shortages of parts are slowing the production of thousands of its vehicles. Daimler Truck CEO Martin Daum told CNBC that the current supply chain squeeze is among the worst he’s seen in his more-than-25-year career, resulting in major bottlenecks across the company’s suite of brands. “We are facing enormous pressure on the supply chain,” said Daum, whose trucks are used for vital industries such as logistics and construction. “I would say it’s one of the worst years ever in my long career in trucking, where we sometimes have to touch a truck three, four times to add the missing parts,” he added. But Daum said that shortages of other parts are also continuing to slow the production of thousands of trucks across its international network of factories. “We have, in a couple of factories, more than 10,000 trucks where one or two parts are missing and we desperately search the world for those parts,” he said.

How the new Hyundai Motor factory stacks up to other big Georgia deals

South Korean giant Hyundai Motor Group made official this year its plans to build a sprawling electric vehicle factory in Bryan County near Savannah. The project is expected to employ as many as 8,100 people and involves a roughly $5.5 billion investment, ranking as one of the largest corporate recruitments in Georgia’s history. The project comes just six months after Georgia announced the $5 billion Rivian electric vehicle factory, which will be built an hour east of Atlanta. In just the last few years, three of Georgia’s biggest recruitment projects ever have all been related to electric vehicles. In 2018, the state landed a battery plant from South Korean conglomerate SK Innovation. It’s all part of a big bet by Georgia leaders to ensure a place in the electrified future of the auto industry.

Two huge Ford Motor deals

Ford Motor and battery supplier SK Innovation have planned to invest over $11 billion at two sites in the South, one in Kentucky and the other in Tennessee. The projects will produce electric vehicles and batteries. The two sites are the Memphis Regional Megasite and the Glendale Megasite in Hardin County, Ky. The Tennessee project will include a 3,600-acre campus, a supplier park, recycling center and a new assembly plant to build F-Series trucks. The two projects are expected to create almost 11,000 full-time jobs and are part of President Joe Biden’s call for companies to onshore supply chains amid the global shortage of semiconductor chips and the logistics backlog that is being experienced in the supply chain from foreign countries. The state of Tennessee invested more than $174 million on improvements at the Memphis Regional Megasite. Tens of millions have also been spent on the Glendale Megasite in central Kentucky over the years as well. That site came in second in the Hyundai site search that ended up in Montgomery, Ala., nearly 20 years ago.

The average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways hits a record 12.2 years

The average age of vehicles on U.S. roadways edged higher in 2021, hitting a record of 12.2 years, as Americans challenged by high car prices and slim pickings on dealer lots hold on to cars longer. This was the fifth straight year the average vehicle age in the U.S. has increased, according to new data released by research firm S&P Global Mobility. Vehicles on average have been getting older in the U.S. for the past two decades as quality has improved and cars generally are lasting longer, analysts say. During the pandemic, the trend has only accelerated, largely because of a computer-chip shortage that has curbed factory output and left dealership lots bare. With car supplies constrained, prices have also soared on both new and used vehicles, resulting in more shoppers choosing to delay purchases. The average vehicle age crossed 12 years for the first time in 2020, the firm found.

ALABAMA

Four of the top 10 U.S.-made vehicles come from Alabama

Cars.com is back with its American-Made Index, and Alabama once again figures prominently in the 2022 ranking. The list ranks vehicles made and bought in the U.S., listing 95 vehicles based on five criteria: assembly location, parts content, engine origins, transmission origins and U.S. manufacturing workforce. Topping the list again is Tesla, with its Model Y. However, this year, all four vehicles made at Honda’s Lincoln, Ala., plant placed in the top 10 — Honda’s Ridgeline truck, Odyssey mini-van, Pilot mid-size SUV and Passport.

Alabama-made vehicles also have healthy representation outside the top 10. Hyundai’s Santa Fe SUV, made in Montgomery, checks in at No. 39, while the Hyundai Santa Cruz pickup is a few slots lower at No. 43, and the Hyundai Tucson compact SUV is at No. 48, in its first year on the survey. From Vance, Ala., the Mercedes-Benz GLE SUV is ranked No. 51. Another newcomer to the list is the Toyota Corolla Cross, the SUV manufactured in Huntsville. Mercedes’ GLS SUV is at No. 68, while the Hyundai Elantra is at No. 95.

Toyota expands Huntsville, Ala., operations

Toyota plans to invest $222 million at its manufacturing facility in Huntsville, Ala. The company will create a new production line for four-cylinder engines, including a hybrid electric version. The project is part of a $383 million company-wide plan that injects new investment into four U.S. manufacturing plants that support powertrain production for Toyota and Lexus vehicles. Plants in Kentucky, Missouri and Tennessee are included, with the Alabama facility receiving the largest investment. The investments advance Toyota’s commitment to vehicle electrification and meeting customer demand, according to company officials.

One thousand more jobs available at Mazda-Toyota plant

Toyota and Mazda are looking for 1,200 more employees to help build vehicles at their new joint plant in Huntsville, Ala. After the recent rollout of Mazda’s first vehicle from the plant — the CX-50 crossover SUV — VP of production Janette Hostettler said, “The team members here have worked so hard and put so much heart and passion into the vehicle, but I still need about 1,200 more of y’all.”

Korean parts supplier expanding its Alabama operations

Auto parts supplier Shinhwa Auto USA Corp. announced a $78 million expansion of its Auburn operations at Auburn Technology Park West. The company supplies parts for Montgomery’s Hyundai plant and Kia in West Point, Ga. The project will create 42 jobs.

KENTUCKY

Excitement grows with massive EV battery plant planned for Bowling Green, Ky.

A major electric vehicle battery plant is coming to Bowling Green, and the excitement in the community is palpable. According to reports, a new factory to supply battery materials has longtime Warren County Judge Executive Mike Buchanon thrilled about the expected 2,000 new jobs it will bring to Warren County. “This is a real transformational type of business. It actually puts us into a totally different employment sector than we’ve had in the past. It means that Bowling Green will be a focal point for the electric vehicle because where they make the batteries is where they’ll make everything else,” Buchanon said.

Envision AESC, a world leading Japanese electric vehicle battery technology company, unveiled plans in early April to invest $2 billion to open a new manufacturing facility in the Kentucky Transpark. The state-of-the-art gigafactory battery plant will produce battery cells and modules to power electric vehicles.

Toyota adding jobs in Kentucky to support electric vehicle production

Toyota Motor North America says it will add 220 jobs as part of its push to increase electric vehicle manufacturing. The engineering jobs will be added to Toyota’s Production Engineering Division. It serves as go-between for design and manufacturing. The new employees will be part of Toyota’s efforts to look for ways to make electric vehicle manufacturing more efficient. The automaker says the new jobs will be spread across Toyota’s North American manufacturing plant locations, including Kentucky.

Piston Automotive expanding Kentucky plant

Piston Automotive, a provider of automotive assemblies including electric and hybrid vehicle battery systems, will further expand its operations in Jefferson County, Ky. The $26.3 million project is expected to create 117 jobs.

TENNESSEE

Volkswagen announces 1,000 new Tennessee hires

Volkswagen announced in May it would seek to hire 1,000 new employees to add a third shift at its Volkswagen Chattanooga assembly plant and drive production for three VW models, including the electric ID.4. According to the latest Bureau of Labor Statistics figures, the March unemployment rate in Chattanooga, Tenn., is 2.9 percent, and VW already employs more than 4,000 people at the plant. As an incentive to join the team, VW said it would offer a $3,000 sign-on bonus to anyone hired between May 16 and October 31 of this year. The German automaker will use the third shift to assemble three VW models for the North American market; the Volkswagen Atlas SUV, Atlas Cross Sport, and electric ID.4. Volkswagen says the new shift will help meet customer demand for those models.

Audi could build electric vehicles at Volkswagen’s plant in Tennessee

Audi’s parent company is VW and the chances of the German automaker building EVs in Chattanooga are growing stronger every day. Audi shares the same all-electric architecture as the ID.4 model which it builds in Chattanooga.

Ford in West Tennessee: Finding the workforce for the largest project in Tennessee history

In the fall quarter, Detroit-based Ford Motor Company announced it would locate a $5.6 billion, 5,800-job electric vehicle and battery production facility in what was called the Megasite of West Tennessee but is now called Blue Oval City. A workforce will obviously be needed in an age of low fertility rates and high rates of retirements. A trained workforce ready for the assembly line, however, is what Ford is trying to achieve. This will be done through a customized curriculum for K-12 and technical college students trained to build electric trucks and batteries. In fact, ninth grade students will graduate high school when the plant opens. Tennessee lawmakers have also agreed to spend $40 million to build a Tennessee College of Applied Technology near the megasite in Haywood County to address the demand for workers. To capture Ford, Tennessee and local governments put together an $884 million incentive package. The year 2021 was one few in Tennessee or in economic development will forget. Tennessee welcomed major investments and job generation from companies such as Ford, Oracle, Thermo Fisher Scientific and Smith & Wesson.

Auto Supplier announces $8 million Tennessee plant

A Michigan manufacturer of automotive powertrain and drivetrain systems plans to establish a new facility in East Tennessee, state and company officials announced. ATC Drivetrain will invest more than $8 million in the new plant in Knoxville. Over the next five years, the company expects the project to create 218 new jobs.

TEXAS

New rare-earth magnet facility to attract hundreds of jobs to Fort Worth

A rare earth magnet factory is coming to Fort Worth, and it will attract hundreds of new jobs. Las Vegas-based MP Materials is building its new rare earth magnet factory off of Alliance Gateway Freeway in Fort Worth’s Alliance corridor. James Litinsky, the founder, chairman and CEO of MP Materials, says magnets are synonymous with modern life. “Rare earth magnets are really what will power motion, electric vehicles, wind turbines, drones, robots, robot dogs, air taxis, whatever. . .we could go on and on,” Litinsky said during the groundbreaking ceremony. The new facility will reshore 150 skilled jobs and about 1,300 indirect jobs.

Auto parts supplier relocating to Texas site

Vehicle Accessories Inc. plans to relocate 315 manufacturing jobs and its $13.5 million annual payroll from Sunnyvale, Calif., and other locations to Mesquite. The company plans to combine operations in Sunnyvale; Buffalo, N.Y.; Toronto, Ontario; and Magog, Quebec, to the new Mesquite location.  The relocation project will create 315 jobs.

WEST VIRGINIA

Battery manufacturer Sparkz to build plant in West Virginia, hire former coal workers

Battery manufacturer Sparkz has announced that it will begin construction this year of a gigafactory in West Virginia, which will initially employ 350 workers to commercialize its zero-cobalt battery. Sparkz founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra made the announcement at a ceremony in the state capital, Charleston, which was attended by a very diverse group of policymakers, including Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm.

Electric bus manufacturer chooses South Charleston, W.Va.

Canada-based electric bus manufacturer GreenPower Motor Company will lease/purchase a 9.5-acre manufacturing facility in South Charleston, W.Va. The company will manufacture zero-emission, all-electric school buses there. The project is expected to create up to 200 jobs by the end of the year, and employment at the facility may reach up to 900 jobs when full production is reached in 24 months.

Toyota celebrates 25 years in West Virginia

Japanese automaker Toyota celebrated a major milestone — the company has operated in Buffalo, W.Va., for 25 years. Toyota makes four- and six-cylinder engines there, as well as transmissions and hybrid trans-axles.