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Automakers step up pace on electric vehicle battery plants

DETROIT — Global automakers and tech companies are stepping up the pace of building factories and preparing for what many believe will be a fast-moving transition from internal combustion engines to electric vehicles. On Monday, Toyota, Stellantis, Foxconn, Ford, and Volvo all made announcements about electric vehicle components or assembly plants or plans to raise capital to fund the transition.

The moves come on top of previous plans from Ford and General Motors to build five U.S. battery factories in anticipation of the shift to electric power. The activities are ahead of demand at the moment. Still, forecasters predict that the share of electric vehicles will rise dramatically as more battery-electric models are rolled out as governments increase requirements for zero-emissions cars to fight climate change.

At present, only about 4.8% of the roughly 80 million new vehicles sold globally run solely on electricity, according to LMC Automotive. But the consulting firm Alix Partners predicts that it will rise to 11% in 2025 and 24% in 2030. If plug-in gas-electric hybrids, which can travel short distances solely on electricity, are included, that figure rises to 28% in 10 years. Simultaneously, Alix Partners predicts that global sales of gas- and diesel-powered vehicles will fall from the current 89% to around 39% by 2030. Gas-electric hybrids, which run on gasoline and electricity simultaneously, rise from 7% currently to 33% in 2030.

“All of us are trying to get a fix on how customers will accept electric vehicles,” Chris Reynolds, chief administrative officer for Toyota in North America, said in an interview with The Associated Press. “We don’t know for sure, but we have to be ready.”

Toyota said it plans to build a new $1.29 billion factory in the U.S. to manufacture batteries for hybrid and fully electric vehicles. The location wasn’t announced, but the company said it eventually will employ 1,750 people and start making batteries in 2025, gradually expanding through 2031. The plant is part of the $3.4 billion that Toyota plans to spend in the U.S. on automotive batteries during the next decade. It didn’t detail where the remaining $2.1 billion would be paid, but part of that likely will go for another battery factory.

Stellaris, formerly Fiat Chrysler and LG Energy Solution, said Monday that they plan to build a battery manufacturing facility to help the automaker get 40% of its U.S. sales from vehicles that run at least partly on electricity by 2030. They didn’t say where the plant would be. Also, Monday, the Taiwanese company that makes smartphones for Apple and others, Foxconn Technology Group, said it would produce electric cars and buses for auto brands in China, North America, Europe, and other markets.

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