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More details on potential water, traffic impacts of proposed EV battery plant near New Carlisle

A rendering of the company’s Lansing, Mich. facility, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2024.
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Ultium Cells
A rendering of the company’s Lansing, Mich. facility, which is currently under construction and scheduled to be completed in 2024.

More details are in on the potential water and traffic impacts of a proposed EV battery plant that may be built near New Carlisle.

Ultium Cells, a joint venture between LG Energy Solutions and General Motors, is considering a site at the northwest corner of Larrison Drive and Indiana State Route 2 for its fourth EV battery plant.

The company has one plant in Warren, Ohio with production slated to start this month and is currently building two more facilities — one in Spring Hill, Tenn. and the other in Lansing, Mich. The plants make battery cells for GM vehicles as part of the company’s goal to go all-electric by 2035.

The proposed $2.4 billion, 2 million square foot St. Joseph County facility would bring 1,600 permanent jobs and up to 2,000 construction jobs.

The St. Joseph County Council unanimously approved the first of three steps to create a tax abatement for the project last month. The development agreement was supposed to go up for final approval Tuesday, but county officials say it was pushed back two weeks to further iron out details.

Those include the plant’s impact on the Kankakee aquifer, which is currently used at around 50 percent of safe capacity.

Jared Huss of Lawson-Fisher associates said most of that use, which peaks in the summer, comes from industrial and agricultural wells. But since the Ultium Cells plant would use New Carlisle city water, when combined with the solar power project nearby it would actually decrease water drawn from the aquifer by around 7 percent.

In addition, he said four groundwater monitoring and water quality testing wells would be installed on the Ultium Cells site, which would exceed the county’s requirements under the wellhead protection program.

As for traffic, officials say INDOT and the Indiana Economic Development Corporation are prepared to commit major infrastructure dollars for improvements if the proposal goes through.

That could include adding additional turn and acceleration lanes at State Route 2 and Larrison Drive to accommodate commuter and truck traffic and widening Larrison Drive between State Route 2 and Edison Rd.

County economic development director Bill Schalliol said the plant would operate 7 days a week with two 12-hour shifts each day, so traffic would come at focused times — 5 to 7 a.m. and 5 to 7 p.m. In addition, the plant is expected to draw an average of 16 trucks per day.

The development agreement for the proposal is expected to come before the council and commissioners on Sept. 27, and state incentives are also set to be finished this month.

If the project goes forward, construction would start late this year — bringing up to 2,000 union jobs — and production would begin in 2025.

The South Bend Regional Chamber of Commerce has also put together a website with more information on the proposed plant.

Contact Jakob at jlazzaro@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

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Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.