Mercedes-Benz has opened a battery factory near its US plant. However, the plant will not be manufacturing cells, as only purchased cells will be assembled into ready-to-install batteries for the EQE and EQS SUV models. A US cell manufacturing operation by Mercedes will be done jointly with AESC.
The US plant in Tuscaloosa, where Mercedes is building SUVs for the global market (such as the GLE and GLS), will soon also build the SUV offshoots of the new E-series EQE and EQS. The two electric SUVs are based on Mercedes’ EVA2 platform, like the recently unveiled electric sedans. As the Stuttgart-based company has now confirmed, the EQS SUV will be unveiled on April 19, which is around the Beijing Motor Show. The EQE SUV is expected to be unveiled at the Guangzhou Motor Show in November.
Customized battery packs are required for vehicle production. While Mercedes involves several locations for production in Germany (battery assembly in Hedelfingen, the packs are then transported to Sindelfingen (EQS) and Bremen (EQE)), in the US battery assembly has been established in close proximity to the vehicle plant – Bibb County is right next to Tuscaloosa.
In total, the Stuttgart-based company has invested around one billion dollars in Tuscaloosa to convert the vehicle lines to the EVA2 platform and build the battery assembly plant. The Bibb County facility will provide 600 new jobs, according to Mercedes. The production lines at the vehicle plant are flexible, so the familiar models and the new E-SUVs can be manufactured together – the proportions can be managed according to demand.
“The opening of our new battery plant in Alabama is a major milestone on our way to going all-electric,” says Mercedes CEO Ola Källenius. “With our comprehensive approach including a local cell sourcing and recycling strategy, we underline the importance of the US, where Mercedes-Benz has been successful for decades.”
The US battery assembly has been planned for years. A total of nine such battery assembly plants have been announced, most of which are located near vehicle plants – for example, in Beijing, Bangkok and Jawor, Poland. In Germany, there is the aforementioned battery assembly in Hedelfingen (as part of the main plant in Stuttgart-Untertürkheim) and two factories in Kamenz.
The assembly from purchased cells is thus independent of the announcement from 2021 to build eight ‘gigafactories’ for cell production with a total of more than 200 GWh together with partners. Mercedes bought stakes from ACC for this purpose, but a cell factory is also to be built in the USA.
As the Stuttgart-based company confirmed during the opening of the battery assembly plant, a partnership with Envision AESC has been established for the US cell factory. “Envision AESC will supply the Mercedes-Benz battery factory in Bibb County with high-performance battery modules from a new plant within the US, supplies will commence from mid of the decade,” the release states. The location of the cell factory and agreed-upon delivery quantities are not disclosed – nor who will supply the cells for assembly by then.
“Envision AESC will be a major supplier securing capacity for the next generations of our Mercedes-EQ products built in the US in the years to come,” Mercedes CTO Markus Schäfer said. “With Envision AESC’s net-zero carbon solutions and battery technology, this new cooperation underlines our holistic approach regarding our sustainable value chain and allows us to secure supplies, to take advantage of economies of scale, and to provide our customers with superior battery technology.”
Mercedes famously plans to sell only electric cars by the end of the decade – with the caveat “wherever market conditions permit.” At that point, no more plug-in hybrids will be sold either. The known interim goal of an E share of 50 per cent of sales in 2025 still includes PHEVs.
With reporting by Sebastian Schaal, Germany.
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