LIBERTY, N.C. (WGHP) — Toyota is making its North Carolina investment even bigger as it prepares its future Liberty facility to manufacture batteries for a new line of electric SUVs.

On Wednesday, Toyota revealed that the company would invest an additional $2.1 billion, increasing its total investment to $5.9 billion, to expand infrastructure at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite, where the company plans to develop and produce lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles.

“With this announcement that Toyota is increasing their investment in the North Carolina electric-vehicle battery plant, there is no doubt that we are leading the way in the clean energy economy,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper in a post on Twitter.

Beginning in late 2025, Toyota will begin assembling three-row, electric SUVs at its Kentucky plant as the company’s first electric vehicle to be assembled in the United States. The new SUV will use batteries produced by Toyota North Carolina, expected to launch production that same year.

What they’re saying

Sean Suggs, president, Toyota Battery Manufacturing, North Carolina: “The future is bright at Toyota North Carolina. With this proactive infrastructure investment, we will be able to quickly support future expansion opportunities to meet growing customer need.”

North Carolina Governor Roy Cooper: “Toyota’s significant investment in our state, now nearly $6 billion, is terrific news and more evidence that North Carolina is a leader in the clean energy economy. Toyota believes in our world-class workforce to power its future success and I appreciate this enormous commitment here.”

N.C. Senate President Pro Tempore Phil Berger (R-Rockingham): “Toyota’s continued commitment in North Carolina confirms our status as a manufacturing powerhouse. This expansion further cements our thriving partnership, and it wouldn’t be possible without the reforms the General Assembly implemented to transform North Carolina into a jobs-friendly state.”

Key figure in developing megasite sees good things for Randolph County coming
Construction began last year at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite. (WGHP)

Speaker of the North Carolina House of Representatives Tim Moore (R-Cleveland): “Toyota and the State of North Carolina have formed a strong partnership that will transform the future for North Carolina. Our state has proven to be – again and again – one of the best locations for companies of all sizes to do business, and Toyota’s continued investment in our state is indicative of that recognition.”

Toyota of Greensboro Dealer Principal Mary Rice: “We are proud to be a part of the Toyota family, particularly in light of the new $2.1 billion investment in Toyota Battery Manufacturing North Carolina. As a company, Toyota has always been tremendously committed to making the necessary investments that lead to success for both the company and the community.”x

Ted Ogawa, president and chief executive officer, Toyota Motor North America: “We are committed to reducing carbon emissions as much as possible and as soon as possible. To achieve this goal, customers must have access to a portfolio of options that meet their needs now and in the future. It is exciting to see our largest U.S. plant, Toyota Kentucky, and our newest plant, Toyota North Carolina, drive us into the future together with BEV and battery production for our expanding electrified lineup.”

Big plans

You may recall that Toyota in December 2021 announced a nearly $1.3 billion investment to build its first battery plant for electric vehicles on the site near Liberty. That plan pledged 1,750 jobs at a median salary of $62,234 by Dec. 31, 2026. The state approved $271.4 million in total incentives.

Then in August the company said it was increasing that investment up to $5.6 billion, creating another 350 jobs, which brings total employment at the plant where batteries for electric vehicles will be made to about 2,100.

That was followed by the NC General Assembly’s inclusion in its biennial budget adopted last July of another $225 million for Phase II of Toyota’s battery manufacturing plant. That budget plan cited 5,000 jobs at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite.

Toyota said at the time that the expansion was to accommodate two more production lines – which would be six total – but its application for the new permit does state seven.

Emily Wilemon-Holland, a spokesperson for Toyota North Carolina, said the inclusion of seven lines was to meet the threshold for the application and to be prepared for the future.

“Our plan remains the same to begin production with 4 HEV [hybrid electric vehicles] lines and 2 BEV [battery electric vehicle] lines,” she said.

The construction project, one of the country’s largest, an industry expert has said, is well underway, with dirt and concrete being moved and poured on a nearly around-the-clock basis.

The state says that Toyota’s new plan changes the project’s classifications under Title V of the Clean Air Act and its requirement to comply with federal and state emission standards.

Environmental concerns

Toyota’s expansion plans for the battery-production facility received a boost in February when the state expanded its environmental permit for production lines that included a small surprise.

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality issued a modification of its air quality permit to allow for seven production lines to manufacture batteries for electronic vehicles – which is one more production line than the company previously had announced.

There are general environmental concerns involving the production of EV batteries because they are manufactured with lithium. These facilities could pollute through carbon emissions and, if there is battery disposal on site, toxic waste, a report by the environmental watchdog group Coltura stated.

The state’s report noted that the production of batteries requires a clean environment, which means that “scrubbers” will be used to maintain that cleanliness and perhaps create pollutants.

But the Environmental Justice Report, a 40-page impact analysis of environmental issues through the lens of demographic and health ranking data for the area, said the facility overall will be “a minor source for hazardous air pollutants” well within state requirements.

The NC DEQ also conducted a 30-day public comment period late last year, the release said, and reached out to local government and property owners in the area.

The state’s permit warns that the facility will be subject to environmental inspection, including “unannounced compliance inspections and [the company] must follow all recordkeeping and reporting requirements.”

Part of a broad state investment

North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper (Woody Marshall/News & Record via AP)

The Pathways Analysis of clean energy initiatives across North Carolina released by Cooper in February mentions the Toyota facility for its economic development investment issues but also in many places discusses the responsibility for “environmental justice.”

“This analysis will help us achieve pollution reduction while highlighting new market opportunities to ensure North Carolina remains on the forefront of the clean energy transition,” Cooper said in releasing the report.

Toyota’s plan is big business for the state. In its original analysis in approving incentives, the NC Department of Commerce said that by 2044 its impact on North Carolina’s gross domestic product would be $9.6 billion, which would equate to an increase of $35 million in net revenue for the state.

Toyota also has noted that battery production and demands on lithium were significant issues for its long-range plans.

Check out the video of the dirt being moved

Greensboro-Randolph Megasite (File)
Greensboro-Randolph Megasite (File)

The construction of the facility at the megasite has been underway for more than a year, and millions of pounds of dirt and rock have been moved to level ground, providing suitable foundation and preparing the site for building construction. Concrete has been poured for several of the slabs.

Ames Construction is the contractor for what has been described as “the biggest construction project east of the Mississippi River.” That’s the assessment of the nonprofit Dirt-World, which promotes the dirt-moving industry and its need for workers to operate machinery.

Dirt-World recently sent out two producers who travel to sites and create video blogs of construction projects. Their 15-minute production of the Toyota plant is remarkable in its scope and depth, including both ground-level and drone footage and stupefying technical description and explanation of the work in progress as of last fall.

The project on the basically 1-mile site, the Vlog reports, requires 28 million yards of dirt and rock to be moved. There are 170 “yellow machines” employed on two shifts of 20 hours a day for six days a week.

And those machines travel across the property at about 9,000 miles per day.