The EV wave is gathering momentum in the US and this is only the latest in the line of electric investments by Asian giants in the beleaguered Midwest, with Hyundai, LG Chem and SK Innovation already signed up. Tesla's Texas gigafactory, however, remains in the doldrums.
Panasonic Energy, a unit of Osaka-based Panasonic, announced its plan to invest $4 billion in manufacturing battery units for electrical vehicles in the United States. The Japanese company stated that it would be building its new lithium-ion battery plant in the state of Kansas, where it also hopes to create 4,000 new jobs.
This will be Panasonic Energy’s second EV battery operation in the US, the other being located in the arid state of Nevada. This is the largest private investment that the state of Kansas has seen, according to Governor Laura Kelly.
"With the increased electrification of the automotive market, expanding battery production in the US is critical to help meet demand," Kazuo Tadanobu, President and CEO of Panasonic Energy, said in a statement.
While the move is subject to approval from Panasonic’s board of directors, the announcement comes at a time when its strategic partner Tesla has been struggling to increase production in its two gigafactories in Germany and Texas.
“This project will be transformative for our state’s economy, providing in total 8,000 high-quality jobs,” Kelly added. Rahm Emanuel, the US Ambassador to Japan, added that the decision to open "one of the largest battery production sites for the next generation of electric vehicles" in the US was "a vote of confidence."
With electric cars becoming more popular in the face of a climate change crisis, and increasing fuel costs not helping the case of ICE vehicles, manufacturers have started investing in the EV supply chain.
General Motors and its battery partner LG Chem announced in January that they were building a $2.6-billion battery plant in Michigan, Hyundai Motor having stated that it was investing $5.5 billion in an EV and battery plant in the US state of Georgia, and Ford’s battery partner South Korea’s SK Innovation has announced investments of more than $11 billion in battery production facilities in Kentucky and Tennessee.