EXCLUSIVE: Lobbyist registry documents filed just before the new year reveal the German automaker is taking a hard look at the “viability” of Ontario, and that the province is offering “competitive” development incentives
Volkswagen is actively investigating Ontario as the potential location for a future North American battery manufacturing site, Electric Autonomy can exclusively reveal.
The information, disclosed in lobbyist registry documents filed with the province just before the end of 2022 (searchable here), offers more details about the non-binding agreement the German automaker signed with Canada’s federal Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry, François-Philippe Champagne, in early December where Volkswagen said it would consider Canada for a battery-making factory.
Now, for the first time, Volkswagen is publicly declaring what it wants to do with its North American “manufacturing plant” investment and why Ontario is, at least for now, the only Canadian jurisdiction in consideration.
“Ontario has offered to support the project through investment and other incentive contributions to allow the project to be successful and competitive with other locations that are being considered,” reads the filing from JLL, a Washington D.C.-based commercial real estate brokerage representing Volkswagen.
“As we continue discussions with officials, we will be working to advise Ontario and craft the most effective ways that Ontario can contribute and support all investments related to the overall project that will increase Ontario’s chance of winning the investment.”
Volkswagen is undertaking “investigation of potential development” into several areas in the bid-winning jurisdiction, including in a “manufacturing plant, supporting infrastructure and utilities, labour pool, labour training, raw material supply.”
The holistic approach will ensure that “all of the infrastructure, labor, logistics (i.e. roads, rail, etc.) the will support the plant.”
Electric Autonomy reached out to Volkswagen about the filing. A spokesperson responded saying, “It’s certainly an exciting time,” but that the company would not be commenting further.
Despite the specifics offered in the registry filings, Volkswagen’s proposal comes with a major caveat.
“There are no assurances that after the discussions with Ontario officials and determination of the support that will be provided by Ontario, that Ontario, or any location in Canada will be awarded the project,” reads the document.
Multiple locations across North America are “being considered,” says Volkswagen, providing no further details.
But it’s not just money that will entice Volkswagen into putting down roots — it’s also the big picture.
“[Volkswagen’s] vision is to produce cars which would be carbon-free by 2039. And my pitch to them is, ‘How can I be part of that solution?'” Champagne told Electric Autonomy in response to questions last month. “I tell them the journey we have traveled. We have decarbonized steel, aluminum. I want to produce green batteries. I want to produce green microchips. I’m looking at renewable plastics. The types of things you would need in cars.”
Last year, Volkswagen’s battery subsidiary, PowerCo SE (which has an newly-opened office in Toronto), signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Umicore — a Belgian technology company that is breaking ground on a precursor and cathode factory just outside of Kingston, Ont.
The MOU secures a supply of cathode materials from Umicore for Volkswagen for its future battery cell production in North America.
Volkswagen says it is targeting production of enough batteries out of its North American factory to supply up to 550,000 electric vehicles.
Electric Autonomy also contacted ISED for comment on the latest filing.
“We know how important the auto industry is to the Canadian economy and to the hundreds of thousands of Canadian workers in this sector. As [Volkswagen’s] CEO stated, it is clear that they see Canada as a logical option in their search for a North American factory,” stated ISED communications director, Alex Wellstead in an email.
“We’ll continue to do everything to ensure that Canadian workers and our economy can benefit from the global transition to electric vehicles.”
Let’s hope that VW’s plans are for batteries that use lithium iron phosphate chemistry or better and not the obsolete lithium ion technology that is expensive and fraught with problems.
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