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Another $1B EV Supplier Factory Under Construction In The 'Battery Belt'

A rendering of the Ascend cathode factory in Hopkinsville, Kentucky, which is expected to be operational by the end of 2024.

The explosion in the development of factories for the electric vehicle industry is continuing with the announcement of a new cathode plant in Hopkinsville, Kentucky. 

Massachusetts-based Ascend Elements, which extracts cathode material from older batteries to be used in newer ones, broke ground on a new factory in Kentucky, expecting the first of its cathode supplies to be delivered to an unnamed buyer in the fourth quarter of 2024, it announced this week.

The plant is expected to rise to full production by 2025, and Ascend has a contract to deliver a minimum of $1B of cathodes over the next five years, Bloomberg reported.

Ascend is the latest EV-related manufacturer to flock to the portions of the Midwest and Southeast dubbed the Battery Belt, covering Michigan to Georgia. 

The industry received a boost from tax incentives provided in the 2022 Inflation Reduction Act. Since the act’s passage, incentives have led to companies announcing $242B in new clean power capital investments like battery plants, wind farms and EV factories in 41 states, Center for American Progress Senior Vice President Trevor Higgins told a subcommittee of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce in April.

Georgia especially has seen a boom in EV activity, most recently with Hyundai Motor Group, which announced a new $4.3B EV battery plant outside of Savannah in a partnership with LG Energy Solutions. It will be the second such plant in the state for the South Korean automaker, providing power cells for batteries that will fit Hyundai, Kia and Genesis EVs. 

Ascend CEO Mike O’Kronley told Bloomberg the Kentucky plant is being assisted by $480M in matching grants from the IRA, adding that “having that non-diluted funding come in was extremely helpful and is now starting to translate into commercial contracts.”

Ascend, founded in 2015 in Worcester, Massachusetts, already operates a plant in Covington, Georgia, where it recycles battery material from discarded consumer electronics and manufacturing scraps from Honda Motor Co. and Hitachi.

The new Kentucky plant is expected to produce cathodes that would supply 40 gigawatt-hours of batteries a year, or enough for 750,000 electric vehicles.