LIBERTY, N.C. (WGHP) – Toyota’s expansion plans for the battery-production facility it is building at the Greensboro-Randolph Megasite received a boost Wednesday 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.
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 investing an additional $2.5 billion – or $5.6 million total – that would create 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.
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.
Toyota Battery Manufacturing EJ Report by Steven Doyle on Scribd
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.”
Final DEQ permit for Toyota by Steven Doyle on Scribd
Part of a broad state investment
The Pathways Analysis of clean energy initiatives across North Carolina released Thursday morning by Gov. Roy Cooper 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.
NC Pathways Report by Steven Doyle on Scribd
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
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.