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Mercedes battery pack plant in Alabama will shorten supply chain, reduce emissions

Mercedes-Benz has opened a battery pack factory in Bibb County, Alabama, near a plant in Tuscaloosa where the company will soon be building its new EQE and EQS electric SUVs for the US market. The new plant will not be manufacturing cells, but rather assembling purchased cells into packs for the EQE and EQS.

The Stuttgart-based automaker has invested a cool billion bucks in Bammy to convert production lines to its EVA2 platform and build the battery assembly plant.

“The opening of our new battery plant in Alabama is a major milestone on our way to going all-electric,” says Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius, adding that the company’s “comprehensive approach” includes “a local cell sourcing and recycling strategy.”

At the new plant, “high-performance lithium-ion batteries are assembled into a complete system on a production line around 984 feet long with more than 70 work stations,” says Mercedes. “Using a fully digitalized production process, a variety of components are combined, including up to twelve cell modules and the EE compartment, for the intelligent integration of the power electronics.”

The battery system uses a modular design. The cell chemistry contains nickel, cobalt and manganese in a ratio of 8:1:1. Cobalt content has been reduced to around ten percent.

The US battery assembly facility is one of nine that Mercedes has built or is planning around the world, most of them situated near vehicle plants. Locations include Beijing, Bangkok and Jawor, Poland, as well as Hedelfingen and Kamenz in Germany.

Separately, Mercedes plans to build eight gigafactories for cell production, with a total annual capacity of more than 200 GWh, together with partners.

Mercedes says Envision AESC will supply battery modules to the Bibb County plant beginning around 2025, from a new cell plant to be built in the US. (The automaker hasn’t disclosed who will supply the cells until then.)

“Envision AESC will be a major supplier securing capacity for the next generations of our Mercedes-EQ products built in the US in the years to come,” Mercedes CTO Markus Schäfer said. “With Envision AESC’s net-zero carbon solutions and battery technology, this new cooperation underlines our holistic approach regarding our sustainable value chain.”

Emissions produced in the manufacture of batteries represent a sore point for automakers (and a subject of endless exaggeration and disingenuous distortion for EV-bashers), so it’s interesting that Mercedes claims that production of the batteries for the EQS and SUV will be CO2-neutral.

The new battery plant incorporates several energy-efficient features, including solar water heating, rainwater capture, LED lighting, environmentally friendly HVAC refrigerants and energy-saving process technology. Forklifts are powered by hydrogen. The automaker says the Bibb County site’s entire electricity needs will be met through renewable energy sources from 2024 onwards, once planned solar energy projects gain approval.

Mercedes is also focused on recycling. “With a view to the future return of lithium-ion battery systems from Mercedes-EQ vehicles, the company is expanding its global battery recycling strategy. Mercedes-Benz is starting to build its own battery recycling plant in Germany, based on hydrometallurgy.”

Sources: Mercedes-Benz, Electrive, Green Car Reports

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