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Panasonic Plans Major EV Battery Plant in Kansas

The electronics company plans to invest $4 billion in an electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in De Soto, Kan. Officials are calling the project the largest battery plant in the world.

Laura Kelly.jpeg
Kansas Gov. Laura Kelly speaking in Topeka, Kan., July 14, 2022, at an announcement by Panasonic to development a massive electric vehicle battery manufacturing facility in De Soto.
Image courtesy of Panasonic
Electric car battery production continues to show interest in the United States with Panasonic announcing plans for a massive battery manufacturing facility in Kansas.

The company plans to invest $4 billion in the development of a battery plant in De Soto, Kan., in what company officials are calling “the world’s largest electric vehicle battery plant.” De Soto is located about midway between Kansas City and Lawrence.

“This is the largest private-sector corporate attraction win for Kansas and the Kansas City region in their history,” said Tim Cowden, president and CEO of the Kansas City Area Development Council.

The plant will manufacture lithium-ion batteries used in EVs, helping to lower their cost and increase driving range.

“This project will be transformative for the Kansas economy, providing high-quality, high-tech jobs while bringing a new industry to the state that is forging a more sustainable future,” said Gov. Laura Kelly, in a statement. As many as 4,000 workers could be hired to run the facility.

State officials in Kansas put together a coalition made up of community, utility, educational and other leaders to position the state as the right location for Panasonic, said Cowden.

"The Kansas City region is a top automotive logistics hub, seeing more than $4 billion invested in the market over the past 10 years from the auto sector," said Cowden, listing General Motors and Ford as car companies with a presence in the region, which is also home to some 70 auto industry suppliers. “Additionally, the Kansas City region is a nucleus of engineering, technology and automotive manufacturing expertise with a strong talent pipeline and cutting-edge training programs.”

The region also has built-in transportation logistics in the form of rail, and an ability to reach 95 percent of continental U.S. locations within three days.

The announcement by Panasonic — as well as car makers like Ford and GM — to invest heavily in U.S. battery production signals a level of confidence in the growth of EV adoption by American consumers. Already, industry watchers are saying the U.S. could be at a “tipping point,” with EVs now making up 5 percent of new-car sales, according to Bloomberg.

"With the increased electrification of the automotive market, expanding battery production in the U.S. is critical to help meet demand," said Kazuo Tadanobu, president and CEO of Panasonic Energy Co., Ltd., in a statement.

A national survey by Consumer Reports found that 71 percent of consumers had “some interest” in buying an EV at some point, with over 30 percent considering an EV as their next vehicle, said Quinta Warren, associate director of sustainability policy at Consumer Reports, speaking at the March 2022 Veloz Summit, a meeting of EV industry professionals and policymakers. This statistic rises to 78 percent when surveying millennials.

Furthermore, EV sales are expected to double again this year, said Warren, due, in part, to the introduction of more EV models on the market, even though many consumers would like to see more SUVs, trucks and cheaper-priced EV models.

“Rapidly declining battery costs are making EVs more affordable. But they’re still not affordable for a lot of consumers,” said Warren.
Skip Descant writes about smart cities, the Internet of Things, transportation and other areas. He spent more than 12 years reporting for daily newspapers in Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana and California. He lives in downtown Yreka, Calif.

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