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Best & Worst States: Why An Indian Graphite Manufacturer Chose North Carolina

EAM NC Facility
Photo Courtesy of Epsilon Advanced Materials
Epsilon Advanced Materials is tapping into American EV transition by siting a $650-million plant.

Beneath the headlines about the stalling of America’s electric-vehicle revolution is the unspectacular reality that the nation’s transition to this new form of transportation continues to be nearly inevitable—though it likely will proceed at a significantly slower pace than imagined even a year ago, as consumers, auto dealers and other constituencies revolt against the federal governments forced march into the future.

This means it’s still full speed ahead for companies that are still trying to position themselves as suppliers in the new manufacturing chain that will define the industry in the years to come. This includes companies that make the many materials that go into battery systems that really aren’t much of a factor in traditional internal-combustion powertrains for vehicles.

India-based Epsilon Advanced Materials is one such company, and recently concluded a search for a site for its first U.S. plant by announcing a $650-million graphite-anode manufacturing facility in Brunswick County, North Carolina. The development not only feeds into an acute need for America’s battery-electric vehicle infrastructure but also heeds America’s national-security interests and reflects an ongoing surge in domestic sourcing of much manufacturing that has been done offshore.

“Sixty-five percent of the graphite in the world is processed in China,” says Sunit Kapur, CEO of Mumbai-based Epsilon. “There also was an accelerator with [funds] from the [U.S. Inflation Reduction Act] to help America get away from that reliance.”

Graphite is the largest component material in modern electric-vehicle batteries, and Epsilon says demand for graphite is set to increase by 200 percent in the next four years. Nearly 60 percent of graphite is synthetic, manufactured material. Epsilon is expected to begin construction on the U.S. plant in the middle of this year and open Phase 1 in 2026 with capacity of 30,000 tons a year, on its way to full capacity of 50,000 tons, with up to 500 workers, by 2031.

The state offered total financial incentives of more than $22 million. The company considered about 100 sites for the plant but chose North Carolina for three other main reasons, Kapur says: assurances that Duke Energy would make enough electricity available in a power-intensive business, the site’s proximity to a growing EV-industry infrastructure in the Southeast, and innovative ideas for training the workforce. The jobs are expected to pay an average of about $52,000 a year, compared with what Epsilon said was a current average wage in Brunswick County of more than $46,000.

“We’r a highly power-intensive business, and we need a power company to be ready with that power, by the time we start production,” Kapur says. More EV-related suppliers are moving into the area, joining automakers including BMW and Toyota that are in North Carolina or nearby.

And local community colleges “have come up with unique ideas to train our workforce, even including using equipment from us before they can go on the job,” he says. “I haven’t seen that kind of engagement from other community colleges.”


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