LORDSTOWN — It’s been about 10 months since contractors broke ground on Ultium Cells LLC’s incoming 2.8-million-square-foot electric vehicle battery manufacturing plant in Lordstown.
To see the final iron beam installed in the building’s steel structure Friday amid an “aggressive” timetable to bring the technology to market, as well as a global pandemic, is a “tremendous feat,” project leaders said.
Ultium Cells is a $2.3 billion joint venture between Detroit's General Motors and South Korea's LG Chem to mass-produce batteries to power some of General Motors' upcoming all-electric vehicle lineup.
“We are pleased construction at Ultium continues to progress safely and on schedule,” said Kee Eun, president of Ultium Cells LLC. “While we faced unprecedented challenges from the very beginning due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we have been able to execute successfully according to plan thanks to the collaborative efforts between General Motors and LG Chem, as well as the support and commitment from our contract partners and the local community.”
Friday’s construction milestone was marked by a "topping out" ceremony. Youngstown-based Ironworkers Local No. 207 members took time to sign their names onto the ceremonial final beam and pose for photos before it was hoisted and put in place, draped by American and South Korean flags.
More than 500,000 man-hours have gone into the building’s steel framework. About 650 construction workers were on-site Friday and plant Director Tom Gallagher expects builders could eventually total 1,000.
The structure itself is expected to be mostly built by the end of the year. Installation of the plant’s equipment is slated to start in summer and continue through 2022 alongside construction and early phase production.
“While we’re producing, we’ll still be doing installation work. This is all about really having an aggressive timeline and coming to market as quickly as we can,” Gallagher said.
Ultium cells are expected to launch in the middle of 2022, to coincide with GM’s electric vehicle launches. They’ll power GM’s new all-electric Cadillac LYRIQ — due out in the first half of next year — and are also designed to power high-performance trucks, SUVs and cross-overs, Gallagher said.
And the Lordstown plant is the only of its kind in GM’s pipeline, he said — so, at least for now, all Ultium-powered cars will have Lordstown-made batteries.
“Our focus is this [plant]. This is where our cells are coming for our launch,” Gallagher said. “Everything we’re doing is focusing on a successful launch of our plant.”
The plant’s workflow is optimized for the single type of battery chemistry and design used to make Ultium cells, which are “critically important” to GM’s plans to go all-electric by 2035 Gallagher said. But expansion scenarios are in place, he added.
The Lordstown plant is expected to have an annual energy capacity of 30 gigawatt hours "with room to expand," according to the release.
Ultium Cells is expected to bring on 30 new team members on March 1, according to the release. The new workers’ first two-week training sessions are set for the middle of that month at LG’s Energy Solution plant in Holland, Mich.
Some of the joint venture’s $2.3 billion investment will go toward education, career training and infrastructure in the electric vehicle manufacturing field, according to the release.
The facility is expected to create 1,100 new jobs in northeast Ohio. Hiring has already begun through the Ultium Cells website.
“This is a significant milestone for the Ultium Cells team and our construction trade partners as we continue to build our physical foundation through the construction of our site, and our cultural foundation as we stand up our workforce,” Gallagher is quoted in the release.