As a point of comparison, Toyota this year is completing its fifth expansion of a separate engine plant in Huntsville, at a cost of $288 million. This year’s project will bring 18 years of investment in the site to a total of $1.2 billion and boost the plant’s capacity to 900,000 engines a year. But 250 miles away in Commerce, Ga., Korea’s SK Innovation is constructing a battery plant to produce about 300,000 batteries a year to serve Volkswagen and Ford, at a cost of $2.5 billion.
Segers also has been warning clients that steel prices have been rising lately due to tighter supplies, driving up construction costs. Scrap steel prices are running 40 percent higher than normal. And manufacturing plants typically require extensive steel structures to allow for hanging loads inside the building, she said.
But another cost factor is that today’s new plants are more endowed with extra features, she said. Costs are higher because “many projects implement sustainability measures into the construction,” she said. Like opting for technology add-ons in a new-car purchase, manufacturers are asking for green roofs, better insulation, more glass elements, geothermal energy foundations, solar panels and systems to recycle air and water.