Canada's Lion Electric says it will build new plant in Illinois, create 750 jobs

·2 min read
FILE PHOTO: Marc Bedard of The Lion Electric Co. speaks during news conference at Palais des Congres in Montreal

By Tina Bellon

(Reuters) - Canadian electric vehicle company Lion Electric on Friday said it had selected Illinois as the location for its new U.S. manufacturing plant, promising to invest at least $70 million and create about 750 jobs over the next three years.

Lion, known for its electric yellow school buses, said it will build the 900,000 square foot facility in Joliet near Chicago to produce 20,000 electric buses and medium and heavy-duty trucks per year.

The company said it expected the facility to come online in the second half of 2022. Lion Chief Executive Marc Bedard said in an interview that while the Illinois factory would focus on vehicle manufacturing initially, the company might later add battery production. Lion is building a battery production facility in Canada.

Bedard said Lion is expanding in the United States when there is growing demand among school districts and companies to switch to electric transportation. Nearly 400 of the company's electric school buses are on the road and Amazon.com Inc has said it will buy up to 2,500 trucks from Lion by 2025.

Lion's expansion also coincides with a favorable regulatory environment under U.S. President Joe Biden, who has pushed for providing generous subsidies to the EV industry.

"We're looking for regulatory tailwinds that will be favorable to electric," Bedard said of his decision to build the factory in Illinois. State-funded tax credits for the plant were being negotiated, Lion said.

Lion on Friday also is expected to start trading publicly on the New York and Toronto stock exchanges following a merger with special purpose acquisition company Northern Genesis Acquisition Corp in November.

The deal was valued at $1.9 billion and Lion received nearly $500 million in net cash proceeds, the majority of which it said it plans to invest in battery technology and the new U.S. plant.

(This story corrects to show that investment and job creation is over a three year, not two year period in first paragraph)

(Reporting by Tina Bellon in Austin, Texas; editing by Grant McCool)