SK boosts hiring plans for Georgia battery plant

Credit: SK Battery America

Credit: SK Battery America

SK Battery America is boosting planned hiring at its Commerce plant by 15% amid surging consumer orders for electric vehicles.

Meanwhile, rival companies have announced new EV battery plants of their own, including GM and Volkswagen, pressuring SK to keep pace.

SK will hire 3,000 workers in Georgia by the end of 2023, up from its original estimate of 2,600, said spokesman Joe Guy Collier. The company has already hired 1,300 employees for its $2.6 billion Commerce facility, which began production in January.

Collier declined to say how many batteries SK has produced in Georgia so far, or its forecast for the full year.

The South Korean company is building the plant in two phases and only has completed the first phase. It estimates it will finish construction in September, with full production starting early next year.

Credit: SK Battery America

Credit: SK Battery America

SK has supply contracts with Ford and Volkswagen for its Georgia-made batteries. It has not said if it will provide EV batteries to Rivian, which is building a $5 billion EV plant about an hour south of Commerce in Morgan and Walton counties.

The SK facility, when it is completed, will manufacture 22 gigawatt-hours of lithium-ion battery cells yearly, enough to power about 430,000 vehicles.

The automotive industry is rushing to switch from gas-powered to electric-powered vehicles, as consumer demand surges. Tesla has sold out of most models until next year, according to media reports, and Rivian’s backlog of orders has increased this year. Automakers and battery companies have announced at least $13.5 billion of new investments in EV battery plants in North America, according to Automotive News.

LG Energy Solution and General Motors have partnered to build EV battery plants in Lordstown, Ohio, and Spring Hill, Tennessee. SK last year agreed to pay $1.8 billion to settle a trade-secret dispute with LG over battery technology used in Georgia.

Earlier this month, LG announced an agreement with Stellantis to build a $4.1 billion EV battery plant in Ontario, Canada. Stellantis makes Dodge, Fiat, Jeep and Maserati vehicles.

Volkswagen has plans to construct six EV battery plants in Europe, which will supply its automotive factories in Europe. VW’s plant in Chattanooga, Tennessee, will purchase batteries from SK’s plant in Commerce.

SK has formed its own partnerships, too. SK and Ford Motor will build an EV battery plant in Turkey with 45 gigawatt-hours of yearly capacity.