Canadian electric vehicle maker Lion plans massive $70M Chicago-area plant

Source: By Ben Miller and David Schuyler,  Milwaukee Business Journal • Posted: Monday, May 10, 2021

A Canadian manufacturer of electric trucks and buses said it’s chosen Joliet, Illinois, to be the site of a massive production facility that will create at least 745 jobs and potentially many more.

The Lion Electric Co. of Montreal said when the 900,000-square-foot facility is completed, it will be the largest all-electric medium- and heavy-duty vehicle plant in the U.S.

Lion said the new facility will produce up to 20,000 all-electric buses and trucks per year.

“As part of its agreement with the government of Illinois, Lion has committed to an initial investment of at least U.S. $70 million over a 3-year period,” Lion said.

“This significant expansion into the U.S. market will not only allow us to drastically increase our overall manufacturing capacity of electric trucks and buses but to also better serve our customers, while adding critical clean manufacturing jobs that will form the backbone of the green economy,” said Marc Bedard, CEO and founder of Lion, in a statement.

Bedard credited the Chicago tech catalyst organization P33 and the economic development organization Intersect Illinois for their efforts to help Lion select Joliet for the U.S. manufacturing location. The company also qualifies for the state’s EDGE tax credit incentive program and could receive a maximum of $7.9 million in incentives if it meets investment and job creation targets, the Chicago Sun-Times reported citing a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity.

Lion is also working with local governments on additional incentives, according to an Intersect Illinois press release.

Illinois officials said they were thrilled with Lion’s decision.

“The new Joliet facility will put Illinois at the forefront of a national movement to transition to zero-emission vehicle use, advancing our own goals of putting one million of these cars on the road by 2030,” said Gov. J.B. Pritzker, in the statement.

The first vehicles are expected to roll off the Joliet facility’s production line in the second half of 2022, according to a video made by Lion extolling the Joliet production facility decision.

The state of Illinois has been investing in building the EV sector in the state, according to Intersect Illinois. The state of Illinois recently announced a $15 million investment to develop two Manufacturing Training Academies that will help boost skills training for a variety of jobs supporting growth of the manufacturing industry, including training for electric vehicle manufacturing.

Electric vehicle manufacturing is an industry sector in demand as efforts to curtail greenhouse gas emissions grow. Oshkosh-based Oshkosh Corp. (NYSE: OSK) recently was awarded an at least $482 million contract from the U.S. Postal Service for company subsidiary Oshkosh Defense to design and manufacture a next-generation fleet of 50,000 to 165,000 vehicles, including electric vehicles.

The Oshkosh award, which could lead to billions of dollars in future work, has faced criticism from an electric vehicle manufacturer that competed for the contract with complaints that Oshkosh would only produce a mix of electric and gas-powered vehicles. But Oshkosh president and CEO John Pfeifer said in a conference call with analysts April 28 that Oshkosh is willing and able to produce nothing but electric vehicles if requested to do so by the USPS.

“We can do 100% electric vehicles from Day 1,” Pfeifer said, according to a transcript of the call posted by Seeking Alpha. “If they said to us, the U.S. Postal Service, came to us tomorrow and said, we’ve got the funding to do 100% electric from 2023, we can do it.”

Milwaukee officials have made a very public pitch to Oshkosh Corp. to locate the USPS work at the largely vacant Century City Business Park on the city’s north side.