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Volvo to build Charleston-area battery plant to power SC-made vehicles

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Volvo Cars plans to build an electric battery manufacturing facility at its $1.1 billion campus along Interstate 26 near Ridgeville. Gavin McIntyre/Staff

Volvo Cars will build a facility at its Ridgeville campus to make batteries for an all-electric version of the automaker's popular XC90 SUV, the company said.

Construction is expected to start this fall next to the automaker's final assembly building off of U.S. Interstate 26. The project is part of a $600 million additional investment in the site that Volvo announced in 2017 that also includes new offices, a second production line and a training center called Volvo Car University.

The battery factory will be completed in time for the company to begin production in South Carolina of a next-model XC90 in early 2022.

Volvo currently builds its S60 at the Berkeley County plant but doesn't plan to introduce an all-electric version of that model. The sedan is being sold with a traditional gasoline engine or as a hybrid.

The power packs that will be built for the XC90 will include battery modules, carriers and harnesses. Each battery will be tested and delivered to the assembly line for installation onto the vehicle's chassis.

"The size of the battery is basically the whole bottom of the car," said Dallas Bolen, a manager with Volvo's product launch group. "You have to have a lot of power."

Bolen said the company decided to build the factory at the Ridgeville plant because it would be too expensive to make batteries elsewhere and then transport them to South Carolina for installation.

Volvo has announced a commitment to building all-electric vehicles, and will debut its first one — called the XC40 Recharge — by the end of this year. The automaker plans to bring out another all-electric model each year. It's part of Volvo's goal to become a climate-neutral company by 2040.

"We made safety a part of our brand and part of our company, we should do the same with sustainability," Hakan Samuelsson, Volvo's president and CEO, said during a recent news conference.

Volvo announced plans to build its first U.S. manufacturing plant in the Charleston area in 2015 and said it would expand the project two years later, bringing its total investment to $1.1 billion. The site started producing S60 sedans in late 2018, selling half in the U.S. market and exporting the other half through the Port of Charleston to countries worldwide.

About 800 production workers have been hired at the Ridgeville plant. Volvo said it plans to ramp up 4,000 employees by the time the S60 and XC90 are in full production.

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Reach David Wren at 843-937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_

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