RALEIGH – North Carolina’s booming electric vehicle sector is getting even bigger. An India-based company, Epsilon Advanced Materials, is going to build a $650 million manufacturing plant for EV battery materials near Wilmington, having struck an economic incentives deal with the state of North Carolina.

Production target is 50,000 tons per annum of graphite anode. (A graphite anode is an electrode made of graphite that is used in a mercury cell in order to produce chlorine by electrolysis, according to Corrosionimpedia.com.)

The plant will “produce enough to power 1.1 million EV sedans a year,” the company said.

“Producing graphite anodes which make up about 25% of a EV battery cell,” noted Vikram Handa, Epsilon Advanced Materials managing director. “I think a really good, high-quality sustainably made graphite anode is what the market is looking for.

“Today, about 95% of graphite is made only in China. So in order to be able to de-risk China and create a supply base in the US is what we’re really looking forward to doing. … Our idea is to 100% localize our supply chain, so we’ll be taking the raw material available in the US and converting that to synthetic graphite. So, we’ll be doing that whole process in the US.”

Handa also pointed out the company’s “technology is about 75% lower carbon footprint when producing these materials compared to what happens in China.”

The plant is important for clean energy efforts as well as jobs, says N.C. Governor Roy Cooper.

A rendering of the newly announced plant to be built near Wilmington.

“North Carolina continues to lead the way in the transition to a clean energy economy by attracting good-paying jobs from great companies like Epsilon that make our state stronger and healthier,” Cooper said. “This historic investment will bring 500 clean energy jobs to Brunswick County, helping both our economy and our environment.”

The news also drew comment from the White House.

“The Biden-Harris administration applauds today’s announcement of a new facility that will create good-paying jobs and economic opportunity while securing American manufacturing and supply chains in industries of the future,” said John Podesta, senior advisor to the president for clean energy innovation and implementation, in a statement.

Jobs, incentives

The company expects to hire some 500 people for the plant, which will be located in Brunswick County. It will cover 1.5 million square feet in the Mid-Atlantic Rail Industrial Park.

The deal was cemented at a N.C. Department of Commerce Economic Investment Committee meeting. Members voted to award $3.43 million in incentives if employment and investment goals are met. Groundbreaking is scheduled for 2024 with production beginning in 2026.

Training was another key factor, Handa said.

“We are getting a lot of support from the local community college, local colleges, for training. That’s unprecedented. I’ve not seen it before. That’s one of the major reasons for us to be attracted to this,” he explained.

The industrial park in Brunswick County where the lithium battery products plant will be built. (WRAL News photo)

Total state and local incentives add up to more than $33 million.

Handa said the overall incentives were important to making the deal.

“I think the incentives were important, and we worked very transparently with them to see what was really needed to make our project really viable. The state, the county, were all very supportive and all the government entities with what they could help us with,” he told WRAL News.

Why North Carolina beyond incentives?

“I think North Carolina had everything to offer that we were looking for when bringing this project to the US,” Handa said. “Workforce, industrial-ready site, power requirements.”

Jobs are expected to pay a minimum wage of $52,264. The state says the company will provide a $1.3 billion benefit to North Carolina’s economy.

The plant will join Toyota’s EV battery plant now being built in the Triad and Vietnam-based VinFast’s EV production complex under construction in Chatham County. Lithium firms such as Albemarle in Charlotte also are expanding operations.

“There are a lot of automakers which are in the southeast region, and for us that was one of the main drivers to be in this part of the country,” said Epsilon Advanced Materials CEO Sunit Kapur.

Founded five years ago, Epsilon Advanced Materials is based in Mumbai with customer reach in Europe, North America and South-East Asia. According to the company it is the first EV battery related investment in the U.S. by an India-based firm.

“The policies in the U.S. are very clear that battery materials and this industry needs to be on-shore and localized, so this is where we saw, as an Indian company that’s developed this technology ourselves, an opportunity to enter the U.S. market and offer this localized product to customers,” Handa said.