Toyota will build its first U.S. battery plant near Greensboro, North Carolina, the automaker announced today, a “megasite” that will give it enough lithium-ion batteries to eventually power as many as 1.2 million “electrified” vehicles annually.
The announcement of the $1.29 billion Greensboro-Randolph Megasite comes as the auto industry prepares to rapidly ramp up production of hybrid and all-electric vehicles during the coming decade. Some analysts now forecast there will be enough battery production capacity in place in North America by 2030 to supply more than 10 million plug-based vehicles.
While some manufacturers are focusing specifically on pure battery-electric vehicles, Toyota plans to continue delivering a mix of conventional and plug-in hybrids, as well as BEVs. The Japanese giant unveiled its first long-range all-electric model, the bZ4X, during last month’s LA Auto Show.
“The future of mobility is electrification and the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite is the ideal location to make that future a reality,” said Ted Ogawa, CEO of Toyota Motor North America. “North Carolina offers the right conditions for this investment, including the infrastructure, high-quality education system, access to a diverse and skilled workforce, and a welcoming environment for doing business.”
Officially known as Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina, or TBMNC, the complex will come online in 2025 and employ 1,750 workers. It will launch with four production lines, each capable of delivering enough batteries for 200,000 vehicles. The site could get another two lines, should demand meet expectations. That would bring capacity up to 1.2 million vehicles annually.
Toyota did not say what the capacity will be in terms of gigawatt-hours, the normal way of measuring battery production capacity. Nor did it indicate what sort of mix it plans for those batteries. Conventional hybrids typically require somewhere between one to three kilowatt-hours of batteries. For large BEVs, that can jump to 100 kWh or more. The Toyota bZ4X, its first long-range offering targeting the U.S. market, will be outfitted with a 73 kWh lithium-ion pack.
Toyota plans to roll out 15 all-electric models by 2025, the majority of those sold through its new “Beyond Zero” sub-brand. It also will produce BEVs for Lexus, the luxury marque last week teasing its own long-range model, the RZ. And its possible that some of the batteries could be supplied to partners such as Subaru. It’s new Solterra SUV was jointly developed with Toyota and shares the same underpinnings as the bZ4X.
Toyota sees a mixed future
But even though Toyota “is pro-BEV,” according to U.S. marketing chief Mike Tripp, the automaker continues to follow a strategy that relies on a broad mix of different electrified drivetrain technologies. It expects BEVs will generate only 15% of its global volume by decade’s end, about the same share as gas-only models. Together, conventional and plug-in hybrids are expected to account for two-thirds of its volume. Hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles will make up the rest.
Toyota has actually increased its sales forecast for BEVs since 2017 and, with key competitors such as Ford, General Motors and Volkswagen aiming significantly higher. “We’re prepared for market adjustments. We can adjust,” said Tripp, with product planning chief Cooper Ericksen adding, “The key is remaining agile” enough to respond to both consumer demand and government mandates.
Whatever the individual mix of electrified products, automakers are largely aligned on the expectation that battery technology will go mainstream. And the rush is on to boost production capacity in North America, rather than continue relying on imported cells — most coming from Asia.
Competitors adding plenty of their own battery capacity
Ford in September announced plans to erect three new battery plants, including two in Kentucky. A third will be part of a 6 square-mile battery car assembly complex near Memphis. They will have a collective capacity of 129 gigawatt-hours, or about 1 million BEVs, Ford CEO Jim Farley told TheDetroitBureau.com.
General Motors has so far announced plans for four North American battery plants, the first recently opening in Lordstown, Ohio. An assortment of other automakers will follow, along with independent battery manufacturers. By some counts, the U.S. and Canada could have a collective capacity of 1 terawatt-hours, or 1,000 gigawatt-hours, by 2030. That could power 10 million all-electric vehicles, the number climbing substantially higher when considering a mix of hybrids and BEVs.
Keeping up with a growing EV market
Until recently, battery-based vehicles made up a small share of the U.S. automotive market, less than 5% all in. BEVs alone saw sales more than double during the first half of 2021, with demand continuing to escalate.
President Joe Biden has laid out a target of having plug-based models account for 40% to 50% of new vehicle demand by 2030. A new survey of industry leaders by KPMG found them collectively forecasting the number will reach 52% by then.