Today, steel frames form the bulk of the plant Buildings. Roofing and wall work has begun, and the 2,000-strong construction site is a hive of activity.
To celebrate the one-year anniversary of the groundbreaking, the Korean automaker gave the media and local officials a glimpse of the construction progress of what it calls “MetaPlant.” At the event, it unveiled renderings of its EV factory, which is thought to be more akin to a Silicon Valley tech company campus than the dark industrial sites of other factories.
They also explained how the manufacturing process will integrate artificial intelligence, robotics and human labor into a “smart factory” – making Meta a “metaplant”.
The facility’s CEO, Oscar Kwan, confirmed the timeline for the plant’s opening. Production will begin in early 2025. In recent months, Hyundai officials have said the project is ahead of schedule and could open in October 2024.
Foundation work for several buildings at the Bryan County campus is 99.9% complete, with steel work at 81%, according to Hyundai. The automaker already employs 290 of its 8,500-member workforce, including 11 recent graduates of the newly created electric vehicle manufacturing program at Savannah Technical College.
Local economic development officials cheered Hyundai’s progress.
“When we signed the deal it felt like we won the Super Bowl,” said Tripp Tolishan, president of the Savannah Economic Development Authority and a member of the Savannah Joint Development Authority, which owns the Hyundai site. “Now we feel like we’ve won 10 Super Bowls.”
As part of Hyundai’s hiring, state and local officials offered $1.8 billion in incentives, the largest such stimulus in state history, including tax breaks, grants and worker training. So far, Hyundai’s suppliers have committed 5,976 jobs and $2.2 billion in new investments, Hyundai officials said.
A modern twist
Hyundai officials have also highlighted some of the unique features of the Metaplant.
The facility features a glass-enclosed conveyor belt “bridge” to transport vehicles from the factory’s paint shop to final assembly. Jumbo Park, the plant’s chief of engineering, said the elevated and light track is visible from Interstate 16.
The complex’s parking lot will have a solar-panel canopy that will provide 5% of the factory’s electricity, Park said. The remainder will be obtained through power purchase agreements, requiring 100% of the facility’s electricity to come from renewable sources.
Visitors to the plant will be able to explore the green space in front of the facility off the interstate, which officials said will be larger than Savannah’s iconic Forsyth Park, which is more than 30 acres. Park said the goal is to “connect the community with the people who work at the plant.”
For employees, on-site amenities include restaurants, shops, a fitness center and health clinics, Hyundai officials said.
Metaplant workers are called “Meta Pros” in Hyundai parlance. And the factory will “change the definition of what an automotive plant is and defy its meta pros’ idea of what a manufacturing job is,” according to a presentation given to members of the media.
The Metaplant concept “speaks” to the automaker’s brand pillars – sustainable, innovative and humane,” A slide was read in the presentation.
Hyundai has not yet announced which models will be made in Bryan County, but officials said it plans to make cars for all three automakers — Hyundai, Kia and Genesis. Its first phase is expected to produce 300,000 EVs a year. The site will also manufacture batteries in a joint venture with LG Energy Solutions.
Tollison said building such a wide variety of cars in the same facility and presumably on the same assembly lines is a departure from traditional automobile manufacturing techniques.
Tax credits add urgency
One of the main reasons Hyundai is racing to open its Metaplant is so the company — and its customers — can take advantage of new federal tax credits for EVs produced in the United States.
Getting more electric vehicles on US roads is central to President Joe Biden’s plans to curb global warming. Biden’s signature Climate and Energy Act — the Inflation Reduction Act — is intended to encourage more drivers to ditch their gas-powered cars for EVs. – Offers $7,500 in tax credits to customers who purchase EVs manufactured in North America.
Hyundai, Kia And Genesis-branded EVs built overseas qualified for previous-generation federal EV tax credits, but the new law means its vehicles no longer qualify.
Hyundai officials, including its president and COO Jose Munõz, criticized the law’s domestic production requirements, saying they put the company at a competitive disadvantage. The company pledged to build its metaplant state before the legislation was passed along party lines.
On Wednesday, Hyundai officials did not discuss friction over the tax credits, but Kwon, the plant’s CEO, said the company wants to move quickly to start producing EVs in Georgia. EVs aren’t expected to start rolling off Metaplant’s assembly lines until early 2025, Kwon said, but Munõz, His boss always likes to add “if not sooner”.