Electric vehicle battery plant set for Windsor, Ont., signals Canada is a 'player' in auto industry's future
'Largest automotive investment' for country's 1st EV battery plant expected to start operating in 2024
A planned $4.9-billion electric vehicle battery plant in Windsor, Ont., that is anticipated will help the city reclaim its position as Canada's automotive capital, promises to be a significant economic generator and create thousands of new jobs.
"This is massive news, not just for the Canadian auto industry. This is huge for Windsor, the Canadian economy and Canadian jobs," said Brian Kingston, chief executive officer of the Canadian Vehicle Manufacturers' Association.
"We know the auto industry is going through a significant transformation to electrification right now and for Canada to secure an investment of this size and scale into battery manufacturing ... indicates that we are a player in this transition."
On Wednesday, South Korean battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution and European automaker Stellantis, alongside all three levels of government, announced the "largest automotive investment" in the province and country, which will bring the first lithium-ion electric vehicle (EV) battery plant to Canada. It's set to be operational in 2024.
Ontario Premier Doug Ford called the plant "game changing" and said it puts the province at the "forefront of the EV revolution."
Ford would not divulge the amount of taxpayer money that will be spent on the factory, adding "it would compromise some negotiations moving forward with other companies as well, but it's a massive investment and it's hundreds of millions of dollars."
According to Stellantis and LG, the plant is anticipated to create 2,500 new jobs and supply batteries to Stellantis plants across North America, and is one of two that the companies are building.
Plant could generate 'up to 10,000 jobs'
The news is being welcomed by many in Windsor's auto sector, which has seen significant job losses in recent years.
Justin Falconer, CEO of Workforce Windsor-Essex, said on top of the 2,500 jobs at the plant, he anticipates "up to 10,000" spin-off jobs.
Charging stations, supply chain partners for electronic components, moulds for the batteries, research and development and transportation for the batteries are just a handful of areas that Falconer said could see job growth.
Based on this, Falconer said, post-secondary institutions will likely look to offer new education and training programs on electric vehicles.
Combined, he said, there's already about eight programs related to the EV field at local institutions, but he said they may look to increase the number of credential programs or add rapid training ones that will "upscale or improve a job applicant's qualifications."
"I expect this to be a very highly sophisticated and technological plant with robotics and engineering," he said.
"We'll see what the standards are that LG is going to be hiring to, and we'll obviously be working with to ensure that they have access to the skilled workers that they're going to need to employ at this plant."
Yvonne Pilon, president of WEtech Alliance — which supports tech companies in the region — said the city is well suited when it comes to the tech talent "needed to power this new industry."
She also said this is a good opportunity to diversify the auto sector to include "every gender, every ethnicity."
"Traditionally, we know the automotive sector tends to be male dominated," she said.
"This is a monumental moment to ensure that this new generation, this new sector is not only built for everyone, it's built by everyone."
During Wednesday's announcement, politicians said the plant moves the country toward achieving the federal government's zero-emissions goals.
The federal plan is to require that half of all new cars sold in Canada be zero-emission vehicles by 2030. Five years after that date, all new cars sold must be zero emission.
Yet, currently, only five per cent of all new vehicle sales in Canada are EVs, Kingston said. He said to boost demand, there need to be consumer incentives and more infrastructure, like charging stations, to support the vehicles.
While EVs are zero emission, the processes surrounding EV battery and parts production aren't, said Derek Coronado, coordinator of the Citizens Environmental Alliance of Southwestern Ontario.
"Zero-emission vehicles are less intensive in terms of the amount of greenhouse gas emissions they produce for obvious reasons, however, you're still making steel. You're still making rubber. You're still making the materials that go into developing and making that vehicle," he said, adding the batteries themselves required mined materials.
These mined materials, like cobalt, lithium and nickel, are coming from the Ring of Fire in northern Ontario, and the processes used to get them impact the land, Coronado said.
EV enthusiasts look forward to production
One local group representing EV owners is pleased to hear of a plan like this coming to the region.
Pino Mastroianni, president of the Electric Vehicle Society of Windsor-Essex, said it means an increase in production volume, which will lower the price of the vehicles, making mainstream models more affordable to the general public.
"The only way to make [EVs] attainable is to build them in bulk or in mass production, so this is a step forward," he said, adding demand is increasing every year.
"People that have already realized that EV sales are going to rise realize that if we aren't going to make them, someone else will, so we need to start having a domestic supply of electric vehicles for the people that want them."
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