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SK and Hyundai plan Georgia battery factory for electric vehicles, 3,500 jobs

“Hyundai Motor Group and SK On are valued partners and key players in the state’s ever-growing automotive industry,” Kemp said in the release.

A Hyundai representative did not immediately return a message seeking comment. A spokesman for SK On said the two companies are still evaluating options and discussing details of their collaboration, and that more details will be shared in the future.

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More than 548,000 electric cars were sold in the United States through the first nine months of this year, a 70% increase compared to the same period in 2021[ads1], according to automotive data firm Kelley Blue Book, which, like The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, is a Cox Company. Electric cars made up approximately 5.4% of all new car sales in the first three quarters of this year, up from 2.7% last year.

David Clayton, executive director of Clemson University’s International Center for Automotive Research, said from shipping logistics to attracting a workforce — especially in times of low unemployment — EV-related companies benefit from clustering in one region.

“The Southeast is growing in population, attracting people from around the country and the world, which in a tight labor market is a good sign that companies will find the workers they need,” Clayton said.

The federal government has increased incentives to produce more electric cars and batteries in the United States, with last year’s Inflation Reduction Act committing $369 billion to accelerate the nation’s transition away from fossil fuels. Timothy Lieuwen, executive director of Georgia Tech’s Strategic Energy Institute, said the law is leading to increased investment in domestic manufacturing, even among foreign companies such as Hyundai that criticized aspects of the law for presenting short-term obstacles.

“This is Exhibit A of what the IRA is trying to accomplish,” he said of the Bartow County announcement. “As an industrial policy issue to stimulate investment, particularly in manufacturing investment in the United States, this signals that it is working.”

Georgia, meanwhile, has positioned itself to be a major player in electric cars, also recruiting upstart Rivian, which is planning a $5 billion factory about an hour east of Atlanta, where it will employ 7,500.

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Hyundai broke ground in October on its sprawling electric vehicle and battery factory along I-16 in Bryan County, where the company plans to employ 8,100 and produce 300,000 electric vehicles per year in its first phase. That number is expected to grow to 500,000 and involve several new EV models, company officials have said.

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

Credit: Stephen B. Morton for The Atlanta Journal Constitution

State and local leaders have highlighted Hyundai’s jobs and investments at the site, as well as commitments to bring thousands more jobs at suppliers around Georgia as justification for a record $1.8 billion incentive package for the Bryan County plant.

So far, two major Hyundai suppliers have announced plans to build factories near the Georgia coast.

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The battery facility in Bartow County is likely to command a similar package of incentives, including grants, tax breaks, infrastructure and free job training.

Some economists and watchdog groups have criticized lavish state and local incentives, arguing that these projects would happen without them. The left-leaning tax-incentive watchdog Good Jobs First said it found states and local governments had contributed about $13.8 billion in incentives to land at least 51 electric car and battery plants in recent years. Of that amount, Georgia committed about $3.3 billion to Hyundai and Rivian through various grants, tax credits, worker training, land and infrastructure.

Pat Wilson, the state’s commissioner of economic development, told the AJC that the state has been engaged with SK on this project for more than six months.

The company sought to expand its American manufacturing capacity. The Biden administration wants to expand battery production in the United States, but much of the supply chain does not exist here and is dominated by China.

“We’re not producing enough batteries as it is in the United States,” Wilson said.

Wilson said SK and Hyundai will lean on the Technical College System of Georgia and Georgia’s Quick Start worker training program to help staff the future factory.

“Bartow is a metro county, one of the fastest growing in the state,” Wilson said. “It’s a good place to supply the workers they need.”

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