ETOWAH, TN—Piedmont Lithium is building a $600 million factory here that is scheduled to start production in 2026 and could produce enough lithium hydroxide to make 600,000 batteries annually.

“We like the proximity to the ‘Battery Belt,’” says Malissa Gordon, the company’s vice president for government relations, referring to the geographical name where an array of companies are locating to supply automakers, including Volkswagen in Chattanooga.

Piedmont plans to create about 120 jobs at the factory. 

Making lithium hydroxide is basically a chemical process. Piedmont’s product will be sent to another company to package and then ultimately shipped to auto companies assembling EVs, Gordon says.

Experts predict that EV sales may reach 12.5 percent of all vehicle sales in 2025 and then rise to 20 percent in 2030. President Joe Biden has floated a goal of 50 percent by 2030, more than doubling expectations.

China makes 80 percent of the world’s supply of lithium hydroxide. “To meet global demand, the lithium supply has to increase 40-fold,” says Gordon.