It was a matter of time and now it's confirmed: Quebec-based electric vehicle company Lion Electric announced Friday that it has chosen Illinois as the location for its new U.S. manufacturing plant, promising to invest at least $70 million and create about 750 jobs over the next three years.
Lion Electric, which has made its mark with a line of all-electric school buses and heavy-duty trucks, said it going to build the 900,000-square-foot plant in Joliet, near Chicago. The facility will produce 20,000 buses and medium- and heavy-duty trucks a year.
The firm said it expects the plant to be operational in the second half of 2022. Lion Electric CEO Marc Bedard said in an interview that the Illinois plant will initially focus on vehicle manufacturing, but the company may add battery production there later. Lion Electric is currently building a battery production facility in Canada.
Bédard added that Lion Electric is expanding into the U.S. as demand from school boards and businesses looking to switch to electric transportation grows rapidly. Nearly 400 of the company's school buses are already on the road, and Amazon has said that by 2025, it will purchase up to 2,500 of the firm's trucks.
Lion's expansion also coincides with a favorable regulatory environment under U.S. President Joe Biden, who is promoting generous subsidies for the electric-vehicle industry.
“We’re looking for regulatory tailwinds that will be favorable to electric,” Bedard said of his decision to build the plant in Illinois. Lion Electric says state-funded tax credits for the plant are being negotiated.
Today, the company is also expected to begin listing on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges following a merger with special purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp last November.
The deal was valued at $1.9 billion and Lion received nearly $500 million in net cash proceeds, the majority of which was invested in battery technology and the new U.S. plant.