A LionC electric school bus produced by Lion Electric. (Photo courtesy Lion Electric)

The company’s 900,000-square-foot plant is dedicated to medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle production.

JOLIET, Ill.—A 900,000-square-foot electric vehicle (EV) manufacturing plant launched by The Lion Electric Company in Joliet this summer is reported to be the largest all-electric U.S. plant dedicated to medium and heavy-duty commercial vehicle production.

The facility, located about an hour from Chicago, is expected to have a manufacturing capacity of 2,500 all-electric school buses at the end of 2023, according to a release from Lion Electric. At full scale, the plant has an estimated production capacity of 20,000 vehicles per year in a combination of buses and trucks, which would require about 1,400 skilled workers, the company estimated.

Lion Electric chose Illinois for the state’s resources, its central proximity to customers and the domestic supply base, and for its vision that aligns with the state’s common goals for a more sustainable future, the company said in the release.

“We are at the forefront of a manufacturing rebirth in the United States, and together with Governor J.B. Pritzker and his team, industry stakeholders, and EV advocates, we are creating the next era of transportation in the Midwest, with a critical need to reduce carbon emissions, strengthen the region’s economic vitality, and support sustainability,” said Marc Bédard, CEO and founder of Lion Electric, in the release.

Lion Electric held an official opening of the facility in July, an event attended by dignitaries, customers, financial analysts, partners, and team members. Among the U.S. and Illinois government officials who participated were Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy; Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzker; U.S. Senator Richard (Dick) Durbin, and U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth. The event was also attended by nearly 150 students from the Boys & Girls Club of Chicago and Com Ed’s Youth Ambassador Program, to learn about future job opportunities in the green economy. The students toured the factory, heard from Lion’s technicians, assembly workers, and staff about the electric vehicle industry, and experienced riding in a zero-emission LionC school bus.

“Lion Electric has been a stalwart partner in building Illinois’ nation-leading electric vehicle manufacturing industry—creating a sustainable network of good-paying jobs that support our communities, while also making our state cleaner and greener,” said Governor J.B. Pritzker, in the release. “This new facility is a shining example of what smart investments and partnerships between the public and private sectors can create, and I congratulate Lion Electric and their partners on the official opening.”

Lion Electric’s new plant in Joliet is reported to be the largest all-electric U.S. manufacturing facility dedicated to production of medium- and heavy-duty commercial vehicles. (Image courtesy Lion Electric)

The official opening included guests touring Lion’s new school bus production line, a truck and bus ride, and exploring innovative all-electric bodied-up Lion truck applications that were on display. Argonne National Laboratory and Joliet Junior College, which are partnering with Lion on research programs and workforce training and development, were also present at the celebration. Guests were also treated to an exclusive first look at the LionD, Lion Electric’s Type- D school bus prototype that is expected to officially debut later in 2023.

“Today’s event is monumental for Illinois as Lion Electric is the first company to make electric buses in the state,” said Mark Denzler, president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers’ Association, in the release. “Manufacturing is the single largest share of our economy, and Lion will help grow a rich and historic legacy of manufacturing.”

Lion Electric describes itself as “an innovative manufacturer of zero-emission vehicles.” The company creates, designs, and manufactures all-electric class 5 to class 8 commercial urban trucks and all-electric buses and minibuses for the school, paratransit, and mass transit segments. Lion designs, builds, and assembles many of the components of its vehicles, including chassis, battery packs, truck cabins, and bus bodies, the company said.

“With the cutting-edge technology and innovative spirit of Lion Electric, we are driving the transformation of the transportation sector towards emission-free solutions,” said U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL). “This facility will not only create job opportunities, but also strengthen America’s position as a global leader in electric vehicle manufacturing. I commend Lion Electric for their commitment to decarbonizing the transportation sector and look forward to witnessing the positive impact this facility will have on our transportation landscape.”

Describing Lion Electric as “a good example of the future of manufacturing,” U.S. Senator Tammy Duckworth said it is fitting that the company chose Illinois as the home for this manufacturing facility.

“Illinois is where the future of manufacturing will happen,” she said in the release. “Supporting green manufacturing and green energy benefits us all in so many ways—we’re creating jobs, saving money, and developing a more sustainable, safer, and healthier world not just for ourselves, but for our kids and generations to come.”