Inside INdiana Business

Is Indiana ready to compete for an electric vehicle battery plant?

(Provided Photo/Toyota Indiana)

PRINCETON, Ind. (Inside INdiana Business) — As one of the top auto manufacturing states in the U.S., Indiana appears to be well-positioned to embrace the growing electric vehicle sector, according to Paul Mitchell, president and chief executive officer of Indianapolis-based Energy Systems Network. He says the state’s manufacturing reputation and workforce could signal automakers like Toyota the state is ready for an EV battery manufacturing plant. This week, Toyota announced it will invest approximately $3.4 billion in automotive batteries in the U.S. through 2030.

ESN is an initiative of the Central Indiana Corporate Partnership that focuses on the development of advanced energy and transportation sectors. In an interview with Inside INdiana Business, Mitchell said parts suppliers are a key reason for the success of Indiana’s auto industry.

“When you are a large automotive manufacturing state, it means you’ve got a robust supply chain of components and parts that can go into a battery pack,” said Mitchell. “There are pieces of metal and plastic and casings and, and connectors and wires and all those kinds of things that go into a battery pack, and we make a lot of that stuff in Indiana.”

Toyota’s investment includes the construction of a $1.3 billion automotive battery plant near one of its vehicle assembly plants. Toyota Motor Manufacturing Indiana in Princeton is one of those plants, which is already focused on EV generation. In April, TMMI announced plans to invest $800 million to retool the manufacturing lines at the Gibson County plant to produce two electric vehicle models and add 1,400 workers.

“Expanding our Toyota family by 1,400 is a challenge we are eager to accept,” TMMI President Leah Curry said during the announcement last spring. “This is a testament to the strong workforce in the southwest Indiana region.”

Toyota says it aims to start battery production in 2025, focusing on lithium-ion auto batteries. The new factory would eventually result in 1,750 new jobs, according to the automaker.

“This investment will help usher in more affordable electrified vehicles for U.S. consumers, significantly reduce carbon emissions, and importantly, create even more American jobs tied to the future of mobility,” said Ted Ogawa, chief executive officer, Toyota Motor North America.

Mitchell says Indiana has the legacy of automobile battery production dating back to the early 1900s, but it also can boast about the Battery Innovation Center in the Greene County town of Newberry, which conducts research and the development of lightweight energy storage systems. The town is just 60 miles from the Princeton plant.

“Hundreds of different customers, major automakers, including Toyota, have done work with the Battery Innovation Center and see it as a center of excellence for helping them develop safer, higher energy density, more robust battery systems. Having that having that facility in their backyard can be a real selling point,” said Mitchell.

In addition to Indiana, Toyota operates assembly plants in Alabama, Kentucky, Missouri and Texas. Those states could all be stiff competition. Mitchell says even if Indiana does not land this battery plant, he suspects there will be other opportunities, whether it is Toyota or some other car maker.

“We need to ensure that our supply chain of existing manufacturers are ready to transition some, maybe not all, but some of their production capacity to components and products that support the electric vehicle industry,” said Mitchell. “This will not be the last opportunity we have to land a major battery production facility. What we need to do is make sure that we’ve got this whole supply chain across the state is geared up to support the transition to more electrified vehicles be that hybrid, plug in hybrid or, fully electric.”

Toyota has not given a timeline as to when it might announce the location of the battery factory.

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