De Soto, Kansas – Panasonic Energy Co., Ltd., a Panasonic Group company, recently announced its selection of SSOE Group as the provider of primary engineering design and architectural design oversight for the company’s electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in De Soto, Kansas. SSOE, an internationally ranked firm, has been at the forefront of the transition to EV – working with the world’s largest and most innovative battery companies to support the manufacturing process at every point in the supply chain.
Panasonic’s First Standalone EV Battery Facility in the U.S.
Making batteries since the 1930’s, Panasonic’s current focus is on bringing EV batteries to the masses. The De Soto facility, the company’s first standalone EV battery facility in the U.S., will help do just that. Panasonic has grown to become the largest lithium-ion battery manufacturer in North America, delivering 6 billion cells and counting. The Japanese-based company’s expansion in De Soto will not only be transformative for the entire state of Kansas – bringing 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.
Carl Walton, Vice President of Strategic Initiatives and Facilities at Panasonic and the program executive for the De Soto plant, shared, “We’re really excited about making history here in Kansas. We don’t see this as just a facility we’re building, but a legacy. It’s not just about batteries, it’s about changing lives for the better.”
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 and along with project partners SSOE and Mackenzie – the contracted architect of record for the production facility – presented preliminary design and civil site plans to the city’s Planning Commission.
SSOE’s Dana Brumley, PE, PMP, who is the design manager on the De Soto plant, commented, “We are deeply honored that Panasonic has invited SSOE on this journey with them. It is a very humbling experience to be a part of such a history-making project. Interacting with Panasonic, the City of De Soto, and the State of Kansas so closely really gives perspective to the magnitude of the project we are delivering. Over the next few years, this project will also be responsible for providing tens of thousands of jobs from construction and facility operations. Panasonic and SSOE are a great fit, the fact that our cultures naturally align has streamlined the ability to communicate and deliver what Panasonic is looking for in this facility.”
A Site to Behold
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. The firm 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, 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 once again make the location a key economic driver for the region. Two contractors from the greater Kansas City area, Emery Sapp & Sons Inc. and Kissick Construction Co. Inc., have been awarded contracts for site preparation.
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, Industrial Project Innovation, to forecast a construction estimate in a post-COVID market.
Where Form Meets Function
Designing a facility that aligns with Panasonic’s employee-centric culture continues 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 production process into 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.