Ultium Lordstown Plant Begins Battery Cell Production

LORDSTOWN, Ohio – Ultium Cells LLC, the joint venture between General Motors Co. and LG Energy Solution that was forged in 2019, has shipped its first products from its sprawling manufacturing plant here.

“We have started battery cell production,” said Tom Gallagher, vice president of operations at Ultium. “It’s been a journey.”

Gallagher confirmed during a press event Wednesday that Ultium has shipped its first cells from the plant.

Cells produced at Ultium will be used to form battery backs that will supply General Motors’ new line of electric vehicles.

Gov. Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted toured the plant Wednesday afternoon, where the officials were provided an up-close look at how the factory has progressed.

“It’s a real testament to the workers here, it’s a real testament to the Mahoning Valley and Ohio,” DeWine said.  “This is the future.”

Ground for the $2.3 billion plant was broken in the spring of 2020, and Gallagher says a portion of the plant is now operational and approximately 800 are now employed at the factory. The Lordstown operation, located near GM’s former assembly complex that is now owned by Foxconn, measures 2.8 million square feet, setting a template for other Ultium plants.

Tom Gallagher, vice president of operations at Ultium, says the plant has already begun shipping cells from the plant.

Ultium’s Lordstown complex is the first of its kind, while two other plants, one in Tennessee and another in Michigan, are in various stages of development.

Gallagher said the plant began early phases of production in May and continued to ramp up in August.  He said this early production phase uses about 20% of the plant’s capacity.

Additional equipment and processing line installation will continue until late 2023, when the factory is expected to be at full capacity, he said.

Ultium has projected a workforce greater than 1,100 when the plant is fully operational, Gallagher said.  “We’re on track to do that,” he said. “We anticipate we’ll be well above that by the middle of next year.”

He added the primary focus at present is to train the workforce as it grows. “We’re excited about that.”

Gallagher said that more than 200 employees are in some type of training every day, from simulators to line operation. “All phases of the process run every day, seven days a week.”

DeWine and Husted said they see the Lordstown Ultium plant as a major statement as to how Ohio has redeveloped its advanced manufacturing capabilities.

Gov.DeWine Visits Ultium Cells_

“The technology in there is just amazing,” Husted said following the tour.  “I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more high-tech automated process that we’ve had the opportunity to witness.”

Husted said he and the governor observed the process of how the battery cells are manufactured and was impressed with the level of precision and sophistication.  “This is a tech company,” he said. “The processes are all automated, robotic, tech-related.  The idea that you could build things to do what we just saw is pretty overwhelming.”

To tour the facility, the officials had to wear protective clothing, since much of the processes operate in clean rooms – a manufacturing environment that is relatively new to the Mahoning Valley on such a large scale, Husted added.

DeWine reiterated that momentum is building across the state in terms of attracting new investment in the tech industry, citing Intel’s decision to build a $20 billion semiconductor campus near Columbus.

This week, speculation surged that Ohio is a likely candidate to attract a $4.4 billion battery manufacturing plant that Honda and LG Energy Solution plan to build in the U.S.

DeWine said he could not confirm whether Honda would consider building the plant here, but did acknowledge there are have been discussions with the automaker.  “We’re not in a position to make a final announcement,” he said. “A lot of good things are happening.”

As the EV market expands over time, Ohio is in a perfect place to capture companies engaged in both electric vehicle assembly and the supply chain, DeWine noted.  “We’re going to continue to be very aggressive,” he said.

Husted added that the success of the Ultium plant in Lordstown would send a message to other companies in the EV space to consider Ohio or the Mahoning Valley as a competitive location to do business.

“Ultimately for Ohio to be successful, this place needs to be successful,” Husted said. “What happens at the local level here is really important to making this a success in Ohio.”

Pictured at top: Ohio Governor Mike DeWine and Lt. Gov. Jon Husted speak to reporters after touring the plant in Lordstown

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.