Top car companies pick Durham as electric vehicle charging HQ

IONNA, a team of top global car manufacturers, this week announced a new, $10 million global headquarters that the company says will bring more than 200 jobs to Durham, North Carolina, where it will develop a nationwide network of electric vehicle charging stations. 

A consortium of seven of the world’s leading automotive manufacturers – BMW, General Motors, Honda, Hyundai, Kia, Mercedes-Benz, and Stellantis – IONNA plans to design, develop, build, and operate a high-powered electric vehicle (EV) charging station in North America. The network will support and be open to all brands of electric vehicles once in operation.

“IONNA’s decision to make Durham County its home validates our global reputation for the Electric Vehicle industry,” said North Carolina Gov. Roy Cooper. “This cutting-edge company and its founding automotive manufacturers will benefit from the innovative ecosystem, highly skilled workforce, and central location of North Carolina to take its pioneering technology to market.”

In addition to corporate offices, IONNA’s new facility will include a customer experience lab for research and development of the software and hardware to create the network of more than 30,000 EV charging points, the company said. 

The joint venture anticipates opening its first charging stations in the United States in 2024. IONNA said its stations will be in convenient locations offering canopies wherever possible and amenities such as restrooms, food service and retail operations either nearby or within the same complex. A number of “flagship stations” will be equipped with additional amenities, “delivering a premier experience designed to showcase the future of charging,” according to the company’s website.

Initial plans call for new charging stations — think convenience centers or rest stops, complete with bathrooms and concessions, instead of gas stations — in metropolitan areas and along major highways, including established “connecting corridors and vacation routes,” though the company has not specified where it will begin rolling out its EV charging network.

IONNA cited Durham’s “thriving research ecosystem and leading universities,” in choosing the central-North Carolina region as its new global headquarters.  

“The area’s dynamic blend of tech talent and commitment to innovation mirrors IONNA’s own mission to develop and deploy a cutting-edge customer charging experience,” the company said in a June 11 statement.

“We are delighted to have IONNA join our growing EV supply chain,” said state Commerce Secretary Machelle Baker Sanders. “When advanced manufacturers commit to North Carolina, it confirms the importance of our ‘First in Talent’ plan which leads the charge in prioritizing the development of a diverse and well-trained workforce to help companies blaze new trails.”

IONNA said salaries at its new headquarters will average $128,000 – well above Durham County’s average of $90,727 – and could inject more than $20 million into the regional economy annually.

IONNA’s operation in North Carolina will be facilitated, in part, by a Job Development Investment Grant (JDIG) approved by the state’s Economic Investment Committee this week. Over the course of the 12-year term of the grant, the project is estimated to grow the state’s economy by $724 million, Cooper’s office said. 

Using a formula that takes into account the new tax revenues generated by the 203 new jobs, the JDIG agreement authorizes the potential reimbursement to the company of up to $3 million spread over 12 years, though the company only collects if its stated incremental job creation and investment targets are met and verified by the state departments of Revenue and Commerce.

The project’s projected return on investment of public dollars is 108%. 

IONNA’s JDIG agreement could also provide more than $1 million for rural communities across the state to attract future business, Cooper said. 

“We welcome IONNA and its high-paying jobs to the Triangle region,” said state Sen. Natalie Murdock, who represents Durham and Chatham counties. “With three Tier 1 research institutions and a top producing community college system, we have a well-educated talent pipeline that is ripe and ready to support the company’s promising future.”

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