A day after celebrating with its employees 25 years of making cars in Alabama, Mercedes-Benz today officially opened a new battery plant in Bibb County, a first-of-its-kind facility in the state that will provide batteries for electric vehicles.
That’s a few months ahead of the start of the production of the all-electric Mercedes EQ vehicles in the U.S. The SUVs will “be built here in Alabama, with batteries made here in Alabama,” Mercedes-Benz head Ola Kallenius, chairman of the company’s board of management, said at the battery plant.
Kallenius spoke along with Jorg Burzer, Mercedes’ head of production; Mercedes’ chief technology officer Markus Schaefer; and Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey.
Ivey called the new plant another success for “the crown jewel of Alabama’s automotive industry.”
“It’s a monumental step for Mercedes-Benz and America’s automotive industry,” she said.
Burzer emphasized Mercedes-Benz’s goal to go all-electric by the end of the decade.
“We’re going through the biggest change in the history of our company,” he said.
In addition to tours of the battery factory, Mercedes offered the first look at the interior of the EQS SUV, which will have its official unveiling on April 19.
The company also announced a new cell factory in the U.S. as part of a partnership with battery specialist Envision AESC. The location of that factory will be determined later.
The battery factory includes two production lines, each just under 1,000 feet long and with more than 70 workstations. Up to 600 new jobs will be created in the Bibb County facility.
The battery plant, along with the nearby vehicle manufacturing plant, will be important to Mercedes-Benz’s electric plans, Burzer said.
“The global Mercedes-Benz production network is digital, sustainable, efficient and flexible,” he said. “Now the new battery plant, with its highly qualified and motivated U.S. workforce, will be a crucial driver of our electric vehicle roll-out plan. Team USA will play a major role in the continued success of Mercedes-Benz and we are proud that our new electric SUVs will also be built here in Alabama for global markets.”
The plant, which will eventually be able to produce batteries numbering in the six figures annually, just finished its third production trial and should be up to its standard operation in about a month, according to the tour.