Ford put the pedal to the floor in its shift to electric vehicles, revealing plans to establish two new “mega-sites,” for the production of the US car maker’s expanded line of all-electric F-Series utes, and for the manufacture of batteries on a gigawatt scale to supply its growing portfolio of EVs.
The two new “massive, environmentally and technologically advanced campuses” in Tennessee and Kentucky were announced this week in a $US11.4 billkion package – billed as the largest ever US investment in electric vehicles at one time by any automotive manufacturer.
The $US5.6 billion Tennessee facility, called Blue Oval City (pictured above), is expected to create 6,000 new jobs and is being described by Ford as “a hive of technical innovation” to build the company’s next-generation electric F-Series trucks, or utes as they are calaled in Australia.
“Blue Oval City’s assembly plant will harness Ford’s global manufacturing expertise and cutting-edge technologies to deliver cost efficiencies and the quality that our customers expect,” said Kumar Galhotra, Ford president, Americas & International Markets Group.
“This will enable Ford to lead in the race to bring dependable, affordable and advanced electric vehicles to even more Americans.”
This is a sensible move, considering the company’s first-ever pure electric ute, the F-150 Lightning, has notched up 150,000 reservations in the US since it was launched in May to greater excitement and anticipation than Tesla’s boxy-looking and now delayed Cybertruck.
The first F-150 Lightnings just last week began rolling off the production line at Ford’s Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan. The massive Blue Oval City plant, in Stanton, West Tennessee, will take EV production to the next level, Ford says, as the company strives to shift 40% to 50% of its global vehicle volume to fully electric by 2030.
“The 3,600-acre campus covering nearly six square miles will encompass vehicle assembly, battery production and a supplier park in a vertically integrated system that delivers cost efficiency while minimising the carbon footprint of the manufacturing process,” a statement said.
The plant, which aims to be carbon neutral from the start of production in 2025, will use cloud-connected technologies to drive improvements in quality and productivity, Ford says, and in terms of energy will explore the potential to use local renewable sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power.
The Kentucky mega-site, meanwhile, will be a dedicated battery manufacturing complex built in partnership with SK Innovation, intended to supply Ford’s North American plants with locally assembled batteries for powering next-generation electric Ford and Lincoln vehicles.
The $5.8 billion BlueOvalSK Battery Park – creating 5,000 jobs – will feature twin battery plants on the 1,500-acre site in Glendale, Kentucky, which Ford says will be capable of producing up to 43 gigawatt hours each for a total of 86 gigawatt hours annually.
News of the Tennessee EV battery gigafactory follow Ford’s announcement last week that it had tipped $US50 million into Nevada-based battery outfit, Redwood Materials, as part of a joint effort to established a “closed loop” battery recycling and supply chain for electric vehicles.
As The Driven reported, the two companies will collaborate to integrate battery recycling into Ford’s domestic battery strategy, which will in turn drive down costs, increase battery materials supply and reduce the carmaker’s reliance on imports and mining of raw materials.
The multi-billion-dollar investments in the Tennessee and Kentucky mega plants are planned to be made via BlueOvalSK, a new joint venture to be formed by Ford and SK Innovation, subject to definitive agreements, regulatory approvals and other conditions.
“This is a transformative moment where Ford will lead America’s transition to electric vehicles and usher in a new era of clean, carbon-neutral manufacturing,” said Ford executive chair Bill Ford, in a statement this week.
“With this investment and a spirit of innovation, we can achieve goals once thought mutually exclusive – protect our planet, build great electric vehicles Americans will love and contribute to our nation’s prosperity.”
“This is our moment – our biggest investment ever – to help build a better future for America,” said Jim Farley, Ford president and CEO.
“We are moving now to deliver breakthrough electric vehicles for the many rather than the few. It’s about creating good jobs that support American families, an ultra-efficient, carbon-neutral manufacturing system, and a growing business that delivers value for communities, dealers and shareholders.”