Major automakers have warned that producing battery cells and packs for their shiny new electric vehicles is not as labor-intensive as making conventional powertrains.
In tallying up the jobs created for battery cell and pack manufacturing, we looked at US and Canadian factories already running and added estimated headcount for plants under construction.
Based on plants currently running or planned, there will be 70,765 battery cell and pack jobs in North America, and that’s not including planned battery capacity for Tesla.
A key promise of the Green New Deal that makes up a large part of President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act is that “clean” jobs will replace the dirty ones, working at internal-combustion engine and transmission plants, as well as coal mines and oil rigs.
But major automakers, including General Motors and Ford, have already warned that producing battery cells and packs for their shiny new electric vehicles is not as labor-intensive as making the sort of conventional powertrains they’ve been cranking out for 120 years.
This has been a major sticking point for the United Auto Workers leading up to its tentative agreements with GM, Ford, and Stellantis. The contracts “would ensure that people who build engines and transmissions today will still earn top union wages making EV batteries and components in the future,” Axios reported.
GM’s Ultium Cell battery plant in Warren, Ohio, paid line workers just $16.50 an hour, Axios noted, which was “barely” half of what the former Chevrolet Cruze plant nearby used to pay.
The tentative UAW contract includes billion-dollar commitments from GM, Ford, and Stellantis to build EVs in existing US factories.
A major issue in this part of the negotiations was that most of the Detroit Three’s battery pack and cell factories are joint ventures with such non-automotive companies as LG Chem and SK On, both based in South Korea.
President Biden last week touted his pro-union credentials in a meeting with UAW President Shawn Fain at the Jeep Cherokee assembly plant in Belvidere, Illinois. Fain’s team convinced Stellantis to keep Belvidere open, and it negotiated with the automaker to build a battery plant nearby that will employ about 1000 UAW workers, NPR reported.
“I want this type of contract for all autoworkers,” Biden said, according to Reuters. He said he hopes the UAW will soon organize Toyota and Tesla in the US.
How many jobs could battery cell and pack factories create in the coming years? Best we can do at this point is to tally up employment at the US and Canadian factories already running, and add in what we know about plants under construction or announced for the near future.
Automakers and battery manufacturers tend to be quick about providing a maximum-employment number. This often works to procure huge tax incentives and concessions from state and local governments.
Based on plants currently running or planned, there will be 70,765 battery cell and pack jobs in North America America when all these factories are running at capacity.
Two of those, the Stellantis-NextStar Energy joint venture in Windsor, Ontario, and PowerCo’s cell plant for Volkswagen in St. Thomas, Ontario, are under construction. Stellantis-NextStar is to employ 2500 people at maximum capacity and VW’s PowerCo will hire up to 3000.
An important caveat: None of these numbers include planned battery capacity for Tesla. Because Tesla has no public relations department, we cannot verify either the current number of employees dedicated to battery assembly in North America or those planned for the future. Based on current vehicle production, Tesla has thousands of employees manufacturing batteries, and the company could be adding thousands more in the future.
Of our tally of 70,765 battery jobs in North America, we count 32,915 as potential UAW-represented position at GM, Ford, and Stellantis facilities. One of those US factories, GM’s Ultium cell plant in Spring Hill, Tennessee, is the sole battery factory already represented by the UAW, employing 1800 workers.
For comparison purposes, we have not been able to find a reliable figure for the number of UAW members working in engine and transmission factories, but the current number of auto workers represented by the union is just under 150,000, according to news reports.
Here is how we came up with the estimated battery factory employment numbers (hat tip to AutoForecast Solutions for a list of current and planned battery cell and pack plants):
GM – 13,420 jobs
Includes Ultium cell joint-venture plants with LG Energy Solutions (LGES) in Warren, Ohio, operating now and Lansing, Michigan, under construction, and the previously mentioned Spring Hill plant currently at startup. An Ultium cell plant joint venture with Samsung SDI is under construction in New Carlisle, Indiana, and will employ 1700 when running at capacity, according to Reuters. The Brownstown (Michigan) battery plant has been operating for years, while Factory Zero and Orion (both in Michigan) are under construction for battery capacity. (Source on all but the New Carlisle plant is GM.)
Ford – 13,195 jobs
Includes the SK On plant in Commerce Township, Georgia, with 2500 employees at full capacity and the Blue Oval SK Battery Park JV in Glendale, Kentucky, under construction. An LGES plant operating in Holland, Michigan, will add 1200 jobs to its current level of about 1495, Batteries News has reported.
Volkswagen – 10,500 jobs
VW’s PowerCo in St. Thomas, Ontario, is under construction and will employ 3000 max. The Commerce, Georgia, SK On cell plant is operating now, with up to 3000 employees. A packing plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, employs 4500.
Honda – 10,000 jobs
L-H Battery Company, a JV with LGES (2200 employees), in Jeffersonville, Honda Marysville (4700), and Honda East Liberty (3100) battery cell plants, all in Ohio, are under construction. The Anna Engine Plant in Ohio is an “EV hub,” which will play a “key role in developing the knowledge and expertise in EV production that will be shared across Honda’s entire North American auto production in the coming years,” the automaker says. The Anna engine plant employs 2900, but there is no breakout so far of employees working on EV batteries or internal-combustion engines, and this number is not included in any of our totals.
Stellantis – 6300 jobs
Stellantis would not give details or even confirm 1000 jobs to be added at a new battery plant that NPR has reported will be built near its Belvidere, Illinois, assembly plant, but we’ve added it in to the total. A Stellantis spokesperson says 2500 will be employed at the Windsor JV with LGES and 2800 will be employed at a JV with Samsung SDI at two plants in Kokomo, Indiana. Windsor and the Kokomo plants are under construction.
Hyundai – 5500 jobs
Both its SK On JV, in Cartersville, Georgia, and its Metaplant in Bryan County, Georgia, are under construction. They will employ up to 3500 and 2000, respectively.
Toyota – 5280 jobs
The Toyota Battery Manufacturing cell plant in Liberty, North Carolina, will employ 5000 at full capacity, while the packing plant in Georgetown, Kentucky, will employ 280. Both are under construction. Like Tesla, Toyota is a target for organizing by the UAW.
Rivian – 2600 jobs
That’s “up to” 2600 jobs at the Gotion battery plant under construction in Manteno, Illinois.
Mercedes-Benz – 2000 jobs*
Mercedes declined to break out employment for its battery assembly plant in Woodstock, Alabama, which also produces ICE-powered SUVs. A joint venture with AESC in Bowling Green employs 2000.
BMW – 1470 jobs
This consists of a joint venture cell factory in Florence County, South Carolina, with AESC, employing 1170, and a pack factory at BMW’s Spartanburg factory, which will employ 300, “with the opportunity to grow,” BMW says.
Does the number of jobs eliminated or created to manufacture battery packs or EVs impact whether you buy an EV? Please comment below.