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US EV latest: GM, Hyundai compete – in battery plant announcements

Qualifying for tax credits will only get tougher, so better plan that state-side manufacturing push now

General Motors and Hyundai on Tuesday published dueling announcements of plans to build electric vehicle battery plants in the United States. 

Hyundai is partnering with fellow Korean corporation SK on to build a $5 billion battery factory in the States. GM, meanwhile, is also looking to Korea for its partner in a new $3 billion battery plant, namely Samsung SDI. 

In its announcement, Hyundai said its battery factory will be able to produce 35 GWh of batteries annually, enough to support the power needs of 300,000 electric vehicles, once it's operational in the second half of 2025. The plant will be located in Bartow County, Georgia, close to production facilities for Hyundai and its subsidiary Kia. 

General Motors' upcoming facility will be similar in size to Hyundai's with the US automaker saying the jointly-operated GM/Samsung battery plant will produce "more than" 30 GWh of capacity annually and the ability to produce both prismatic and cylindrical battery cells once it comes online in 2026. The plant will bring GM's total US battery cell production capacity to around 160 GWh once it's fully operational, GM said. 

As to where it'll be located, GM said it and Samsung weren't sharing those details at this time. They did claim, however, that "the number of new jobs in construction and operations are expected to number in the thousands." 

Battery-build blitz

The new plants are hardly the only ones under construction, with EV battery production in the US booming in the past few years. Panasonic, which manufactures most of Tesla's EV batteries, announced a $4 billion Kansas battery plant last summer, while Toyota is expanding its North Carolina-based plant by some 40 GWh of annual capacity. 

GM's joint-Samsung plant actually makes four new battery manufacturing plants that the Detroit automaker is working on: it announced plans last year to build battery plants in Ohio, Michigan, and Tennessee thanks to $2.5 billion in loans awarded to it by the US Department of Energy.  

The push to onshore more EV battery production capacity may have to do with tough new US tax credit rules for EV purchases that went into effect last week. One of the provisions in the rules includes that a qualifying EV's battery and components both have to be sourced from and assembled in North America or a qualifying trade partner nation. Qualifying component percentages are being phased in over several years, meaning automakers will have to continue bringing EV production into the US to continue to qualify for the tax credits.

When the IRS published a list of qualifying vehicles last week, only six US-based automakers were on the list. GM was there, but Korea-based Hyundai definitely wasn't. In the days since publishing the list, both Rivian and Volkswagen have been added. 

GM, which announced the plant during its Q1 earnings call, made a surprising announcement during the same call by confirming the end of its budget-friendly Bolt EV and Bolt EUV production next year. 

"We delivered more than 20,000 EVs in the US in the quarter, on the strength of record Bolt EV and EUV sales and rising Cadillac LYRIQ deliveries," GM chair and CEO Mary Barra said during that earnings call today. 

For some reason, by Barra's reckoning, that means "it's now time to plan to end the Chevrolet Bolt EV and EUV production" in favor of transitioning the Michigan plant making Bolt EVs and EUVs to build the pricier GMC Sierra EV and the upcoming Chevrolet Silverado EV. 

We reached out to GM in the hopes someone could explain the decision to eliminate an affordable EV while potential car buyers say sticker prices are the reason they haven't gone electric, and we didn't immediately hear back.

While we can't be sure it's the case without a response from GM, Barra made much mention of GM's Ultium platform, the newer sled-like platform designed to make EVs easier to manufacture and parts more swappable. "With the EVs that we have coming, I really think it's a breakout year for Ultium," Barra said during the earnings call. The Bolt was designed prior to the Ultium platform, meaning it likely doesn't fit into GM's new modular EV design paradigm. ®

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