Windsor-Essex: Canada’s fastestgrowing EV supply chain

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Windsor-Essex has attracted billions of dollars in investment this year that will solidify its position as Canada’s automobility capital of the future and a leader in next-generation vehicle production.

That includes the establishment of Canada’s first full-scale battery production plant that will serve as an anchor for the electric vehicle (EV) sector, says Stephen MacKenzie, president and CEO of Invest WindsorEssex.

“We identified early on in our research that attracting a battery plant would be a key component of our automobility strategy. This is a major win of an OEM that will go on to establish its own supply chain.”

NextStar Energy Inc. is a joint venture of automaker Stellantis N.V. and LG Energy Solution (LGES). The partners are making a $5.1-billion CAD investment in a 4.5-million-square-foot facility that is expected to produce the lithiumion batteries for a significant portion of Stellantis’ North American market.

The facility is estimated to employ as many as 2,500 and produce 46 gigawatts of battery power annually, which is roughly enough for 400,000 vehicles. That will make it the single biggest factory in energy capability in North America, says Danies Lee, CEO of NextStar Energy.

The plant will produce core battery cells and modules beginning in 2025 and will also assemble batteries with components built elsewhere starting in 2024.

There were a number of factors in Windsor’s favour in choosing a production location, says Lee. The availability of technical expertise and skilled talent, the proximity to customers, the availability of supply chain resources, and the support of local governments and industry were standout reasons to choose Windsor.

“Battery manufacturing is unique. It combines chemistry, electronics and mechatronics. This is a $5-billion investment, so it’s a combination of a capital-intensive and a labour-intensive venture.”

Ultimately, Windsor’s place as automotive capital of Canada was a differentiator, says Lee.

“We will require a lot of skilled and highly trained personnel. Windsor has everything we need.”

Another major announcement this year is Stellantis’ investment of $3.6 billion CAD into its two Ontario assembly plants that will see its Windsor operation return to three-shift production. The company is converting the plants to flexible vehicle assembly facilities ready to produce electric vehicles.

That comes with a $200-million investment – called a game-changer by industry experts – in the modernization and expansion of its Automotive Research and Development Centre in Windsor that will establish it as a major R&D hub for the company across all stages of production – from design to development.

The centre aims to provide major opportunities for local talent, universities, colleges, and start-ups to participate in the development of Ontario’s EV ecosystem. The expansion means the addition of more than 650 highly skilled engineering jobs to support Stellantis’ electrification targets.

Fast on the heels of the NextStar announcement came the deal to see South Korean manufacturer Dongshin Motech (operating in Canada as DS C&K Inc.) build a $90-million EV supply plant in Windsor, its first in North America.

The plant will manufacture highly specialized aluminum casings for EV batteries and will employ approximately 300 people.

“Together, these two initial battery plants will employ approximately 3,000 people,” says MacKenzie. “Conservative multipliers say one manufacturing job supports three jobs in the local economy, so these investments are huge boons to Windsor-Essex.”

Adding to Windsor-Essex’s growing battery technology cluster is the Flex-Ion Battery and Innovation Centre (a division of Flex-n-Gate). It will be the company’s lead R&D facility for battery design, development and testing. The company will invest $40 million into the facility and equipment to become a premier battery testing location.

MacKenzie says landing the NextStar investment demonstrates that Windsor-Essex is a value-added place to do business.

“This enormous deal opens doors for us. We are seen as a place of growth and opportunity. The message is out there: If you are looking to expand your business in the EV industry or in supporting this industry, you want to look at Windsor-Essex.”