Editor's Note: This article was written by the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, which approved and paid for this post.
As the automotive sector builds toward a future that runs on electric power, Kentucky has moved quickly to stamp its place as a national leader in this burgeoning new market. Within the past seven months, the commonwealth has announced the two largest economic development projects in its history, and together they have established Kentucky as the new electric vehicle battery capital in the U.S.
In April, Kentucky Gov. Andy Beshear joined state and local officials and representatives from Japan-based Envision AESC to announce a $2 billion, state-of-the-art gigafactory in Bowling Green’s Kentucky Transpark. The 30 GWh plant will create 2,000 skilled jobs in South Central Kentucky, producing battery cells and modules to power next-generation EVs produced for multiple global automotive manufacturers.
“The future is now in Kentucky, and it is electric,” Gov. Beshear said. “Company leaders are quickly realizing the commonwealth has an unbelievable toolkit of resources that makes it the perfect location for anyone focused on growth within the EV and energy storage industries. This commitment from Envision AESC will increase Kentucky’s statewide battery production to 116GWh, making the commonwealth the nation’s top producer of electric-vehicle batteries. This investment further proves what we already know: Kentucky is a leader in this rapidly growing sector and will be for generations to come.”
For Envision AESC, the announcement marks the next stage of growth, with plans to produce new generation battery cells with 30 percent more energy density than the current generation, reduced charging time, and increased range and efficiency for EVs, powering up to 300,000 vehicles annually by 2027.
Company leaders are quickly realizing the commonwealth has an unbelievable toolkit of resources that makes it the perfect location for anyone focused on growth within the EV and energy storage industries.
Governor Andy Beshear, Kentucky
The announcement comes just months after Kentucky’s first game-changing EV battery project. Last September, Gov. Beshear joined executives from Ford Motor Co. and SK Innovation to announce the BlueOval SK Battery Park in Hardin County. The transformational $5.8 billion project is the single-largest economic development investment in state history and is set to create 5,000 jobs in the heart of the state.
BlueOval SK will be home to two battery plants to power the next generation of Ford and Lincoln electric vehicles, which Ford leadership anticipates will make up at least 40 percent of the company’s global sales by 2030. Production of advance lithium-ion batteries will generate 86 GWh and is set to begin in 2025. The operation’s high-tech capabilities will increase the cost-competitiveness and technological expertise of EV battery production in Kentucky and in the U.S., making electric vehicles more accessible and affordable for motorists.
According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, U.S. large-scale battery storage capacity increased 35 percent from 2019 to 2020, with over 10,000 megawatts of additional large-scale battery power capacity in the United States expected by 2023 — 10 times the capacity reported just three years ago.
The commonwealth is at the center of this surge, leveraging its unique mix of central geographic location, logistics strength, and skilled workforce to establish itself as not just an excellent landing spot for EV-related companies for decades to come, but as a leader in the electric revolution.
On the heels of the two largest economic development investments in state history, Kentucky has staked its claim as a major player in the future of the automotive industry.
Kentucky’s EV Growth Goes Beyond Battery Production
Numerous other projects across the commonwealth are helping solidify Kentucky’s EV growth. In January 2021, Hitachi Automotive Electric Inc. announced they were establishing a new, 200-job operation in Berea to manufacture motors for electric vehicles. The company currently operates four facilities in the commonwealth and plans to supply motors on a Tier 1 basis to Honda of America Mfg. Inc.
Kentucky’s many advantages, including its longstanding automotive strength, combined with a proactive, aggressive approach to the rapidly evolving sector, have set the standard for a modern, electrified economy.
In August 2021, Martinrea Hopkinsville LLC, a Tier 1 automotive supplier of lightweight structures and propulsion systems, announced its expansion in Christian County with an investment of more than $31 million that will create 33 quality job opportunities. The project will see Martinrea expand its more than 400,000-square-foot facility by 38,500 square feet to support its growing business with added production of lightweight, high-strength structural steel products for internal combustion engine and battery electric vehicles.
This announcement was followed up in January 2022 with the Quadrant expansion, a new $95 million-plus rare-earth magnet manufacturing operation in Louisville, the company’s first mass production facility in the U.S., which will create 200 full-time jobs for Kentuckians. The new location builds on the company’s goal to build a world-class magnetics, manufacturing, and research campus and positions the company and community as leaders in attracting a critical and innovative industry back to the U.S.
Kentucky’s many advantages, including its longstanding automotive strength, combined with a proactive, aggressive approach to the rapidly evolving sector, have set the standard for a modern, electrified economy. Gov. Beshear and Kentucky have made it clear the commonwealth is charged up for this growing industry — and the future is now.