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VW, GM Poised for New North American Battery Factories

VW’s PowerCo gigafactory is slated for Ontario while GM reportedly plans a new US factory with Samsung SDI.

Michael C. Anderson

March 17, 2023

3 Min Read
VW in Canada.jpg
From left: Oliver Blume, CEO Volkswagen Group; Thomas Schmall, Group Board Member Technology; Hon. François-Philippe Champagne, Canada’s Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry.Image courtesy of Volkswagen Group

Since last summer, with eyes on that sweet, sweet tax-break money the US government promises to those who equip their products with batteries made in North America, EV manufacturers have seemed to be scattering new battery facilities across the continent. In the past week alone, we’ve reported on Honda and LG’s announcement of a new battery plant in Ohio and battery maker Amprius Technologies plan for a factory in Colorado. And those are just the latest of more than 20 projects announced since the Inflation Reduction Act was signed last summer (seven of which are covered here and 13 of which are covered here).

Now, German carmaker Volkswagen Group (VW) has announced that PowerCo, its battery-making subsidiary, will build its first overseas battery cell gigafactory in St. Thomas, Ontario, Canada. Meanwhile, Korea Economic Daily (and other media outlets) report that General Motors Co. (GM) has agreed to sign a memorandum of understanding with Samsung SDI to build a new factory in the continental US. Here’s what we know so far.

VW’s Ontario gigafactory plans

On March 13, VW announced that it had selected St. Thomas in Ontario, Canada, as the location for the company’s first overseas gigafactory for cell manufacturing, which will produce sustainable unified cells. The start of production is planned for 2027. The facility will equip the VW battery electric vehicles (BEVs) in the region with “cutting-edge battery cells—and is part of a larger plan that Volkswagen and PowerCo agreed upon with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau's government in August last year,” a VW news release stated.

The announcement follows the decision earlier in March to build a manufacturing facility for new EV versions of VW subsidiary Scout Motors trucks and rugged SUVs in the US. “More than 200,000 Scout vehicles are expected to roll off the Columbia, SC production line each year,” according to VW. Production is scheduled to begin by the end of 2026. VW plans to introduce more than 25 new BEV models across its brands through 2030.

Volkswagen Group CEO Oliver Blume stated, “Our North American strategy is a key priority in our 10-point-plan that we’ve laid out last year. With the decisions for cell production in Canada and a Scout site in South Carolina, we’re fast-forwarding the execution of our North American strategy.”

Reports: GM and Samsung SDI agreement is iminent

Citing “industry sources,” Korea Economic Daily reports that GM and Samsung SDI were slated to sign a memorandum of understanding in Michigan on March 8 for a new factory at cost of about $3.8 billion.

The two companies are reportedly “in the final stage of talks over the investment and the plant’s 30–50 gigawatt-hour (GWh) production capacity, enough to manufacture 360,000-600,000 EV [batteries] a year.” Samsung SDI plans to set up lines for both prismatic and cylindrical batteries to be supplied to GM.

GM’s joint-venture partner in Ultium Cells, South Korean battery maker LG Energy Solutions, is not part of this new agreement “due to a lack of staff and capacity,” according to the report. Ultium Cells already operates a plant in Ohio and has previously announced the building of two new battery manufacturing plants in Tennessee and Michigan.

Though those industry sources cited in the report made the new agreement sound like a done deal, awaiting only a final signing by the two companies, that signing was said to be scheduled for on March 8. A week later, and no official word has been forthcoming from either company. This article will be updated as the story develops.

About the Author(s)

Michael C. Anderson

Editor, Battery Technology, Informa Markets - Engineering

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