How Kentucky positioned itself at the forefront of the EV and battery industry

By the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Gov. Beshear speaks at Envision AESC announcement. (Courtesy of the Governor’s Communications Team) 

As the automotive sector builds toward a future that runs on electric power, Kentucky has moved quickly to stamp its place as a national leader in this burgeoning new market.

Within the past seven months, the Commonwealth has announced the two largest economic development projects in its history, and together they have established Kentucky as the new electric vehicle battery capital in the U.S.

Major Announcements for Kentucky’s Automotive Future

In April, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined state and local officials and representatives from Japan-based Envision AESC to announce a $2 billion, state-of-the-art gigafactory in Bowling Green’s Kentucky Transpark. The 30 GWh plant will create 2,000 skilled jobs in South Central Kentucky, producing battery cells and modules to power next generation EVs produced for multiple global automotive manufacturers.

“The future is now in Kentucky, and it is electric,” Gov. Beshear said. “Company leaders are quickly realizing the commonwealth has an unbelievable toolkit of resources that makes it the perfect location for anyone focused on growth within the EV and energy storage industries. This commitment from Envision AESC will increase Kentucky’s statewide battery production to 116GWh, making the commonwealth the nation’s top producer of electric-vehicle batteries. This investment further proves what we already know: Kentucky is a leader in this rapidly growing sector and will be for generations to come.”

For Envision AESC, the announcement marks the next stage of growth, with plans to produce new generation battery cells with 30% more energy density than the current generation, reduced charging time and increased range and efficiency for EVs, powering up to 300,000 vehicles annually by 2027.

The announcement comes just months after Kentucky’s first game-changing EV battery project. Last September, Gov. Beshear joined executives from Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation to announce the BlueOval SK Battery Park in Hardin County. The transformational $5.8 billion project is the single-largest economic development investment in state history and is set to create 5,000 jobs in the heart of the state.

BlueOval SK will be home to two battery plants to power the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles, which Ford leadership anticipates will make up at least 40% of the company’s global sales by 2030. Production of advance lithium-ion batteries will generate 86 GWh and is set to begin in 2025. The operation’s high-tech capabilities will increase the cost-competitiveness and technological expertise of EV battery production in Kentucky and in the U.S., making electric vehicles more accessible and affordable for motorists.

Surging Growth in Storage

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. large-scale battery storage capacity increased 35% from 2019 to 2020, with over 10,000 megawatts of additional large-scale battery power capacity in the United States expected by 2023—10 times the capacity reported just three years ago. The Commonwealth is at the center of this surge, leveraging its unique mix of central geographic location, logistics strength and skilled workforce to establish itself as not just an excellent landing spot for EV-related companies for decades to come, but as a leader in the electric revolution.

On the heels of the two largest economic development investments in state history, Kentucky has staked its claim as a major player in the future of the automotive industry.

Kentucky’s EV Growth Goes Beyond Battery Production

Numerous other projects across the Commonwealth are helping solidify Kentucky’s EV growth. In October 2021, Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky (TMMK) announced a $461 million reinvestment that will transition 1,400 team members from indirect roles to direct Toyota positions. The project will provide facility upgrades, including preparation for future vehicle electrification, while increasing operational speed and flexibility to allow the company to produce new electric vehicles in the future.

Meanwhile, Nemak Kentucky plans to invest $27 million and create 170 jobs at its Glasgow facility to support future EV-related business. A subsidiary of Nemak USA Inc., the company has manufactured innovative lightweight products for powertrain, e-mobility and structure applications in Barren County since 2012.

The industry’s growth extends into Southeastern Kentucky as well, as Firestone Industrial Products broke ground in August on a $50 million expansion in Williamsburg. The 68,000-square-foot addition to the company’s 375,000-square-foot facility will create 250 full-time jobs to support its growing presence in the EV market. A manufacturer of automotive air springs, Firestone has operated in Southeastern Kentucky since 1989, currently employing more than 500 people.

Kentucky’s many advantages, including its longstanding automotive strength, combined with a proactive, aggressive approach to the rapidly evolving sector, has set the standard for a modern, electrified economy. Gov. Beshear and Kentucky have made it clear the Commonwealth is charged up for this growing industry – and the future is now.

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