Friday was a “new day” for the Lion Electric Company as it officially opened its 900,000 square-feet production facility in Joliet, Illinois, the largest of its kind.
That is how Nate Bagiou, the senior vice president of commercial development for the Quebec-based electric school bus and truck manufacturer, referred to it during opening comments. The event was livestreamed on YouTube.
Lion projects the plant, the largest in North America where vehicle production last fall, will have production capacity for 3,500 electric school buses by the end of this year. Eventually, the company said 1,400 plant workers will produce 20,000 total vehicles a year.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Sens. Tammy Duckworth and Dick Durban also spoke Friday alongside Reps. Lauren Underwood and Bill Foster, Joliet Mayor Terry D’Arcy, and U.S. EPA Region 5 Director Debra Shore.
“Today, we come together to roar like lions,” commented Durban, the Senate’s majority whip. “This was a joint federal, state and local venture. And that I think is one of the reasons for its success. Why are we concerned about school buses? Our nation’s school bus fleet is the largest form of public transportation and one of our heaviest polluters in America. The emissions from diesel school buses have long contributed to lung conditions in children, including children.”
He added that according to the World Meteorological Organization, June was the hottest June on record. And July already has recorded three of the hottest days ever.
“The climate crisis is not on its way. It is here,” he said.
Marc Bedard, Lion Electric’s president and CEO, noted that the opening comes nearly 15 years to the day that he founded the company. It also was just over two years after he and Pritzker announced Lion was moving into Illinois. That same day, May 7, 2021, Lion was listed on the New York Stock Exchange and the Toronto Stock Exchange, with Bedard and company officials ringing the closing bell on Wall Street. His daughter Marie, Lion’s director of customer success and the turnkey Lion Ecosystem, also gave birth to his first grandson that time.
“The was a big day, and timing is everything,” Bedard added. “I think the timing is right for what we are doing right now.”
The ceremony concluded with a ribbon cutting, with Bedard and Pritzker doing the honors. Lion also provided those in attendance with a factory tour and ride and drive.
In April, Lion also opened its 175,000-square-foot battery production plant in Quebec.
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