The huge sum will be used to upgrade a plant in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, where Mercedes already makes SUVs. The company also plans to build a new, separate battery plant near the current facility. Daimler claims the new developments will create more than 600 new jobs.
Workers at the newly e-focused factory will make the automaker’s upcoming line of electric SUVs, the EQ, which debuted last year at the Paris Auto Show. The battery plant, which will be the fifth such site for the company globally, will produce batteries to support both the SUVs built at the Tuscaloosa plant and other electric Mercedes-Benz vehicles around the world.
The futuristic EQ SUV will have an estimated range of 310 miles per charge, and Daimler says that it will feature the “latest status of automated driving” when it launches, although there’s no firm date yet. Production is slated to begin at the start of the next decade, as soon as the necessary upgrades are made to the current facilities.
Daimler’s investment comes after other automakers have shifted their attentions to electric vehicles. Ford committed to launching 13 new electrified models by 2020 in 2015, while Volvo announced over the summer that all of its vehicles will use electric motors as soon as 2019. Mercedes-Benz says it will electrify its “entire portfolio” by 2022, touting that the future will bring more than 50 electrified vehicles.
Electrification is coming, whether automakers make pledges to update their fleets or not. Tesla’s flashy all-electric vehicles have built up massive hype in the automotive scene, while legislators around the world are working to promote the use of electric cars and even ban OG gas engines for environmental reasons. Daimler is taking a step into the future with its commitment to electric cars — but it’s a step that all carmakers will eventually have to take to stay on the road.