When Panasonic Energy Co., Ltd., a Panasonic Group company, sought to build its first standalone lithium-ion battery production facility in the U.S., they knew they needed a partner with cleanroom, battery, and manufacturing experience. With SSOE’s reputation as an industry leader in the design of battery manufacturing facilities, greenfield site development expertise, and experience working with Panasonic on previous projects, they knew we could deliver their vision. SSOE was selected to provide primary engineering design and architectural design oversight.
SSOE’s involvement began at the earliest stage of the project when the firm became engaged in site evaluation efforts with Panasonic’s site selection team. We pulled together a team of architects and engineers to guide Panasonic through defining and ranking site criteria, assisting in the evaluation of multiple campus locations. In July 2022, Panasonic ultimately landed on Astra Enterprise Park (formerly the Sunflower Army Ammunition Plant), originally constructed in World War II and vacant for a quarter of a century—with 300 acres and hundreds of millions of dollars in incentive packages to go with it. A win for Kansas, this is the first economic development project exceeding a billion dollars for the state and will make the location a key economic driver for the region.
In parallel with site evaluation efforts, SSOE worked with Panasonic to generate a preliminary Basis of Design with enough detail to allow the construction manager to forecast a construction estimate in a post-COVID market. From there, we’ve continued to lead the project through the preliminary design phase. To mitigate labor market and supply chain challenges, the cutting-edge nature of lithium-ion battery manufacturing requires our design team to adapt to process and usage changes driven by Panasonic’s refinement to their battery technology. SSOE continues to suggest solutions that are adaptable to future process refinements.
Designing a facility that aligns with Panasonic’s employee-centric culture is to be top of mind. The site plan limits interaction between vehicles and pedestrians through a thoughtfully designed parking layout, one-way traffic, separate truck entrance, and site-specific traffic study. Architectural design is still in progress but promises the intelligent integration of the production process into the building design and spaces throughout to specifically support employees. The U-shaped design of the production facility will frame various support structures and utility buildings that will reside behind it. The fact that Panasonic and SSOE’s cultures naturally align has streamlined the ability to communicate and deliver what they’re looking for in this facility.
With a nearly 100-year history of innovation in batteries spanning both battery cell technology and battery business operations, Panasonic continues to strengthen its lineup of automotive lithium-ion batteries and expand its production capacity. The De Soto facility, the company’s first standalone EV battery facility in the U.S., will help do just that. The Japanese-based company’s expansion in Kansas is expected to bring in a projected $2.5 billion in yearly economic activity to make it the largest economic development undertaking in the state’s history. It will also allow Panasonic to ramp up production to meet surging demand and lead the evolution of the EV industry in the U.S.
Due to the complexity of the design and size of the facility, the City of De Soto will approve its development plan one phase at a time. Panasonic broke ground on the new plant in November 2022, with production slated to begin in 2025.