Sep 28, 2021 - Economy

Ford's big plans to turbocharge the electric car industry in the U.S.

Illustration of a small car plugged into three large batteries

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Ford Motor Company’s new $11 billion manufacturing plan, the biggest component of which will sit just outside Memphis, is part of a much bigger effort to put the U.S. at the center of the electric vehicle revolution, executive chairman Bill Ford says.

The big picture: Ford’s plans — for enormous facilities in both Tennessee and Kentucky, employing a combined 11,000 workers — are ambitious manufacturing efforts designed to minimize their environmental impact.

  • But Ford says these investments will also help the U.S. build its own supply chain for batteries, rather than continuing to import them from Asia — providing economic security, insulation from supply chain disruptions and ultimately bringing down the price of EVs.

“We need to, as a country, decide — do we want to have a domestic battery industry? And that's something that's kind of starting tomorrow,” Ford said in an interview conducted Monday, before the company publicly announced its new manufacturing plants.

Details: The company is building two battery manufacturing plants in Kentucky, as well as an enormous new complex near Memphis that will include both battery manufacturing and vehicle assembly for electric F-series pickup trucks.

  • Long-term, the plan is to perpetually recycle EV batteries in the U.S., and end imports of batteries made with precious metals like nickel, lithium, cobalt and copper from foreign mines.
  • “We'll be importing a lot of these batteries initially, but then they stay within our country and start to be remade into American batteries, if you will,” Ford told me.
  • Ultimately, he said, a more robust U.S. supply chain will help bring down the cost of EVs.

“That does require us to completely remake our company in many, many ways. And we're in the process of doing that,” said Ford, who is the great-grandson of Henry Ford.

The bottom line: “My great-grandfather was the ultimate sort of disruptor,” Ford said. “And I think if he looked at what we're announcing ... he might just say, what took you so long? And he'd be right.”

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