Sep 27, 2021 - Economy

Ford leads $11 billion plan for electric vehicle manufacturing

Rendering of Ford's planned Blue Oval City manufacturing complex for electric vehicles.

Rendering of Ford's Blue Oval City manufacturing complex planned for Tennessee. Image: Ford

Ford is making a historic investment in electric vehicle manufacturing with an $11.4 billion plan to build a new EV assembly plant and at least three battery factories, employing nearly 11,000 people.

Why it matters: The plan is an all-in bet on the biggest transformation of the auto industry since the dawn of the horseless carriage more than a century ago.

The big picture: Ford says its plan is the company's largest single manufacturing investment in its 118-year history and the first step in creating a sustainable U.S. supply chain for electric vehicles.

  • The vision could also seal the legacy of Bill Ford, the 64-year-old great-grandson of Henry Ford.

Details: Ford is planning a 3,600-acre "mega campus" in Stanton, Tennessee, about 50 miles northeast of Memphis.

  • The complex, dubbed Blue Oval City, will be "the largest, most advanced, and efficient facility in Ford’s history," the company says.
  • It will include a battery plant and related supplier facilities as well as a new vehicle assembly plant, where Ford plans to expand production of electric F-series pickup trucks.

In Kentucky, Ford will build twin battery plants in a new complex called BlueOvalSK Battery Park about 50 miles south of Louisville.

  • It is a joint venture with Ford's South Korean battery partner, SK Innovation.
  • Production of advanced lithium-ion batteries will begin in 2025, to power future Ford and Lincoln EVs.

Context: Ford had been laying the groundwork for Monday's news in a string of recent EV-related announcements.

  • The automaker said last week it will partner with battery recycling company Redwood Materials on a domestic supply chain for electric vehicle batteries that relies on closed-loop recycling.
  • Redwood will likely build a recycling and processing facility on the Blue Oval City campus, but those details have yet to be shared.
  • Ford also said recently it is investing $250 million in Michigan to boost production of its upcoming F-150 Lightning electric pickup to meet soaring demand.

For the time being, at least, Ford — like other automakers — will have to continue importing battery cells and raw materials from Asia, where most battery production is based. But eventually, it aims to create a so-called "circular supply chain" in the U.S. through recycling.

  • "If there’s anything we've learned from the chip shortage, it's that we need to have a U.S. supply of battery materials," said Lisa Drake, chief operating officer for North America.

What to watch: Blue Oval City will be carbon-neutral, Ford says. The facility will use solar power and technologies that conserve energy and water, as well as processes to capture scrap materials for recycling or processing.

Of note: Ford's rival, General Motors, is also investing heavily in battery manufacturing to support its aggressive rollout of EVs.

  • With its partner LG Energy Solutions, GM is building two giant battery factories in Ohio and Tennessee.
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