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Ford unveils big plans for an EV factory and 3 battery plants in Tennessee and Kentucky

Here at Charged, we don’t usually repeat superlative claims—“the first, the biggest, the fastest”—we leave those to the Guinness Book of Records. In this case, however, we’ll make an exception. Ford says its plan to build two new manufacturing complexes in Tennessee and Kentucky represents “the largest ever manufacturing investment at one time by any automotive manufacturer in the US.” The Chattanooga Times Free Press calls the deal “the biggest single business investment in Tennessee history.”

It’s big, oh it’s big. How big is it? Ford, together with partner SK Innovation, plans to invest $11.4 billion and create nearly 11,000 new jobs at the Tennessee and Kentucky mega-sites.

Blue Oval City, a new $5.6-billion “mega-campus” in Stanton, Tennessee, 30 miles outside of Memphis, will be “a vertically integrated ecosystem for Ford to assemble an expanded lineup of electric F-Series vehicles.” The 3,600-acre campus will encompass vehicle assembly, battery production and a “supplier park.”

The new assembly plant is scheduled to begin producing Ford F-150 Lightning electric pickups by 2025. These are currently in pre-production at the River Rouge plant in Dearborn, Michigan.

According to Ford, Tennessee competed with 15 other states to land the new plant. The state government is expected to approve a $500-million capital grant for Ford and SK Innovation to develop the project.

Ford says the Tennessee plant is designed to be carbon-neutral once fully operational. The site will include “the potential to use local renewable energy sources such as geothermal, solar and wind power.” It will incorporate an on-site wastewater treatment plant, and zero-waste-to-landfill processes will capture production scrap to be sorted for recycling or processing. Ford is collaborating with Redwood Materials to create recycling options for scrap and end-of-life batteries.

But wait, there’s more! Ford and SK Innovation are forming a new joint venture, called BlueOvalSK, which will build three new battery factories—one at Blue Oval City, and another pair in central Kentucky. Twin battery plants at the site near Glendale, Kentucky will supply Ford’s North American assembly operations. The twin plants are scheduled to open in 2025 with an annual capacity of up to 43 GWh each. Another 43 GWh will be produced at the Tennessee site.

Ford will be the fourth major auto manufacturer to locate an EV plant in Tennessee. Nissan began building the LEAF in Smyrna in 2012. GM’s Spring Hill factory will soon begin producing the new Cadillac Lyriq, and will also be the site of a battery joint venture with LG Energy. Volkswagen is expanding its Chattanooga plant to produce the new ID.4. Also, supplier Denso recently invested $1 billion at a facility in Maryville where it produces EV parts.

“This is a transformative moment where Ford will lead America’s transition to electric vehicles and usher in a new era of clean, carbon-neutral manufacturing,” said Ford Executive Chair Bill Ford. “With this investment and a spirit of innovation, we can achieve goals once thought mutually exclusive—protect our planet, build great electric vehicles Americans will love, and contribute to our nation’s prosperity.” 

“This is our moment—our biggest investment ever—to help build a better future for America,” said Jim Farley, Ford President and CEO. “We are moving now to deliver breakthrough electric vehicles for the many rather than the few.”

Sources: Ford, Chattanooga Times Free Press, Electrek

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