As work continues on the forthcoming Lion Electric Co. factory in Joliet, the company has been inviting local officials out to the location to try out the types of electric vehicles it plans to produce.
On Tuesday, Mark Denzler, the president and CEO of the Illinois Manufacturers Association, was able to get behind the wheel of one of the large, electric school buses. The low hum of the bus was barely detectable as the bus drove.
“This is cool,” Denzler said. “And just so quiet.”
He asked several questions about how the vehicle functions and the practical considerations companies use when operating an electric vehicle compared to a traditional gas-fueled one.
Denzler called the technology that innovative manufacturers such as Lion Electric use to produce the electric vehicles is “truly impressive.”
“This is the future,” he said. “And we’re excited and proud to have Lion [Electric] in Illinois making them here.”
He drove the bus around the property that includes a 900,000 square-foot building that will eventually house about 1,400 jobs, the company has said. The factory is anticipated to have the capacity to build about 20,000 vehicles a year.
On Monday, U.S. Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Channahon, also had a turn behind the wheel of one of Lion Electric’s buses.
“Driving a zero-emission school bus is both energy efficient and super cool,” Kinzinger said in a social media post. “Big thanks to Lion Electric for having me at their site today, and for letting me tour their #IL16 facility in style.”
Orville Thomas, Lion Electric’s director of government relations, said construction workers recently installed concrete slabs in the factory and the company anticipates installing its offices at the facility soon.
Thomas said there is a lot excitement for the completion of the factory and “what this means for Joliet and the surrounding areas.”
Lion Electric’s decision to come to Will County was announced with much fanfare in May when Gov. JB Pritzker visited the Joliet site.
Multiple local taxing bodies, including the city of Joliet, Will County, Troy School District 30-C and Minooka Community High School District 111, all approved a property tax abatement deal for five years in anticipation of the new jobs to come.
Moreover, Thomas said, Lion Electric’s decision to set up shop in Will County could also bring other companies. He said Lion Electric wants a battery manufacturing facility close by, which would only bring more jobs and investment locally.
Denzler added that it makes sense for new companies to choose Illinois considering its geographic location and educational and research institutions. He also pointed to a program the state legislature passed this year to provide tax incentives for companies which plan to invest in manufacturing facilities in Illinois to produce electric vehicles.
“We have a great opportunity to really continue building out this ecosystem,” he said.