Battery plant ramping up

LORDSTOWN — Ultium Cells LLC — an electric vehicle battery-cell manufacturing plant jointly backed by General Motors and South Korea’s LG Chem — plans to have 400 employees on board by the end of the year.

The company has started with three so far with human resources, training and workplace safety assignments.

“Ultium Cells has just started employee hiring to begin employee training for initial leaders that will serve as key resources as we begin to install process equipment, set-up production areas, validate equipment and launch production equipment,” said Dan Flores, GM spokesman.

Ultium’s timeline is to ramp up to about 1,100 employees by the end of 2022. Also during that time will be phased equipment installation at the $2.3 billion facility on Tod Avenue, immediately east of GM’s former automaking plant.

The plans, however, according to Flores are “rather fluid as we learn how long it will take to train the workforce for these new high tech jobs in battery cell manufacturing.”

The company began to hire in November and posted several positions on its website, www.ultiumcell.com. The website lists a variety of mostly engineering-related openings, but also includes purchasing, equipment maintenance and information technology.

Ultium is also developing a training plan that will include on-boarding, orientation, process training and technical training, according to Flores. Training will be conducted in combination of areas including on-site, Youngstown State University, Eastern Gateway Community College and the LG Energy Solutions facility in Holland, Mich.

“We are developing strategies to ensure a safe learning environment,” Flores said. “We need key production, maintenance and quality employees an opportunity to get a hands-on learning experience.”

The plant is a joint venture with LG Chem. Together, the companies are equally sharing the multibillion dollar investment that will mass produce battery cells for several GM models, including the GMC Hummer, Cadillac Lyriq and Cruise Origin — GM’s electric driverless vehicle.

At about the size 3.1 million square feet — large enough to contain about 30 football fields — the plant will have annual capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours and room for expansion. Construction continues at the Tod Avenue NW facility that’s in line to start production in early 2022.

Late last year Ultium Cells acquired 144.2 more acres of land near the plant that’s under construction from Lordstown Motors Corp., an electric truck startup that purchased the former GM plant from the automaker after it idled the facility in March 2019.

One parcel is 45.6 acres on Hallock Young Road and the other is 98.6 acres on Tod Avenue. It was acquired to support placement and routing of utilities to support Ultium Cells, but does offer a bit of flexibility in the future for the company.

The facility is being built on 158 acres of land GM acquired in March for $5.1 million from NP Lordstown 173 LLC, an affiliate of Kansas City-based North Point Development. The company previously owned the land, but rid itself of the property as part of its 2009 bankruptcy.

The initial customer for Ultium Cells is Factory Zero, the former Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Center, which straddles the border of Detroit and Hamtramck, where production of the Hummer EV is expected to begin this year.

The plant, undergoing $2.2 billion in upgrades to retool and ready it for electric vehicle production, is also slated to manufacture the Cruise Origin.


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