Ontario and Windsor are anxious to welcome an EV battery cell manufacturer: will Stellantis oblige?
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Nov 22, 2021
Josh Kozelj

Since Stellantis announced that it has two North American battery cell facilities in the works, hope has been building that it will locate one of them in Ontario, helping secure the province’s place in North America’s EV supply chain

Stellantis seeks to open two new battery manufacturing plants in North America.

Since Stellantis announced that it has two North American battery cell facilities in the works, hope has been building that it will locate one of them in Ontario, helping secure the province’s place in North America’s EV supply chain

Now that the Ontario government has laid out the framework for the second phase of its auto strategy, the near-term focus once again shifts to EV batteries — and, specifically, to Stellantis.

In July, Stellantis CEO Carlos Tavares confirmed in a news conference with Detroit’s Automotive Press Association that the company intends to build two battery cell manufacturing plants in North America — and that one of those could be in Canada.

“At least one will be in the U.S., perhaps two,” he said of the planned joint ventures with LG and Samsung. “There is also an option that one of the two will be in Canada.”

Last month, Ontario premier Doug Ford stated his intention to see a major battery plant built in the province — a commitment repeated in Phase 2 of its auto strategy — but what company might build it or when remains unclear.

But could that company be Stellantis?

Canada still a contender

In a statement to Electric Autonomy Canada earlier this month, Stellantis head of communications, Lou Ann Gosselin, wouldn’t confirm whether Canada was locked in as a future location, but reiterated that “Canada, Mexico and the USA are market contenders” for the Italian-American conglomerate’s second future battery plant. 

Stellantis currently has auto assembly factories in Brampton and Windsor, and last year it announced a $1.5-billion investment to build EVs in the border city. A battery factory in the same area would seem like a good fit.

Windsor, for its part, has also made it clear it is taking steps to try to establish an independent local EV battery supply chain. Earlier this year, the WindsorEssex Economic Development Corp. revealed it was bidding to attract a $2-billion battery facility.

Officials declined to reveal what company was interested in the project, but once Stellantis announced its North American plans, the rumour mill began swirling.

“We’d love to have [a battery plant] of course,” says Stephen MacKenzie, president and CEO of Invest WindsorEssex, in an interview with Electric Autonomy. “There’s certainly a lot of activity in the market in North America and in Europe right now.” 

MacKenzie adds that the number of vehicle manufacturing facilities in Ontario, southwestern Ontario’s proximity to the Greater Detroit region, and the ability to source minerals such as lithium and nickel for the creation of batteries are a few desirable factors for a potential battery plant in his city. 

Supply chain ambitions

At this point, Stellantis seems like Canada’s last, best hope for a battery plant involving one of the traditional major automakers.

This spring and summer, General Motors and Ford announced plans to build multiple battery plants of their own — four in the case of GM, three for Ford — but all of these are to be located in the U.S. More recently, Toyota also unveiled plans for a US$1.3-billion American battery assembly facility.

The importance of securing some similar commitments in Canada is essential to this country’s goals of being a major player in the entire EV supply chain.

“Historically this segment [battery manufacturing] has been missing in Canada,” says Liz Lappin, vice-president of corporate affairs and exploration at E3 Metals, an emerging lithium developer based in Calgary, in an email to Electric Autonomy

“However, the importance of domestic supply chains has become very clear in the last two years. We do know that North America as a whole will need more batteries, and we hope that a meaningful portion of that capacity can be developed in Canada.” 

Thus far, Quebec has emerged as the EV battery supply chain front runner, with two significant battery cell facilities announced last month to complement its already robust EV manufacturing sector. 

In the span of a few days in early October, Ontario-based StromVolt said it was going to build a 10-GWh facility in Quebec, while U.K.-based Britishvolt, in an exclusive interview with Electric Autonomy, revealed its plans to build a 60-GWh facility there.  

Long-term demand unclear

Provincial rivalry notwithstanding, there is no understating what securing EV battery manufacturing would bring to Canada.

“If you’re talking about a gigafactory, anywhere between a million to three-million square feet of production space, then you’d be talking about anywhere between 2,000 to 2,500 direct jobs… You’d probably have another 1,000 supply chain jobs,” says MacKenzie.

Remarkably, even with all this recent activity, North America still has a long way to go to catch up to Asia and Europe as the leaders in battery manufacturing. In June, Benchmark Mineral Intelligence tracked 211 lithium-battery “megafactories” in the world — 12 of which were located in the U.S., compared to 22 in Europe, and 156 in Asia. 

Even if a Stellantis battery factory comes to Canada, along with the two projects slated for Quebec, Lappin says it’s hard to say at this point what share of overall demand these plants might fill. “EV manufacturing numbers are still evolving,” she writes. 

For his part, Invest WindsorEssex’s MacKenzie is satisfied that the potential of the Canadian market will speak for itself and that Windsor’s reputation as a prime location to gain market access to the big OEMs is loud enough for battery manufacturers, like Stellantis, LG and Samsung, to take notice.

“They’re looking at a lot of places in North America, but certainly we feel that we have a good business case, so we’ll see what happens.” 

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