Finnish EV Fast-Charger Maker Setting Up Shop in North Carolina

Kempower Eyes US Market
EVs charging
Al Drago/Bloomberg News

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A Finnish maker of fast chargers for electric vehicles is dipping its toe into the U.S. market with a $41 million venture in North Carolina.

Gov. Roy Cooper announced Kempower Corp.’s plan to establish a new manufacturing facility in Durham County that will create 300 jobs.

“Electric vehicle charging stations are a key component of our transportation infrastructure and we welcome these high-wage clean-energy jobs that Kempower brings to our state,” Cooper said Feb. 7. “North Carolina’s global reputation as a clean-energy manufacturing powerhouse continues to grow.”

Based northeast of Helsinki in Lahti, Kempower became an offshoot in 2017 from parent Kemppi-Group. The latter, founded in 1949, is known for its global welding machine brand and claim of being the world’s first to introduce an inverter-based, direct current (DC) electrical power source.

Kempower, which focuses only on EV charging, provides public charging stations and chargers for large EV fleets and original equipment manufacturers.

“In the U.S., driving long distances is more common than in Europe, making the reliability of chargers an even more pressing issue. By having a tried and tested system in place to ensure the reliability of our chargers, we have the confidence that our chargers are fit to serve the continent’s EV drivers,” said Tomi Ristimäki, Kempower CEO.

From its new North Carolina site, Kempower expects next year to start producing DC fast-charging units to customers in the state and also in the nation. Its DC fast chargers will be made compliant with federal EV charger requirements outlined in the National Electric Vehicle Infrastructure (NEVI) Program.

The bipartisan infrastructure law will give North Carolina grants for $109 million to create an EV network with fast-charging stations along designated major highways and in communities. Already the state is planning to locate at least four DC fast chargers every 50 miles on major highways.

As an incentive to woo the company, North Carolina OK’d a Job Development Investment Grant with a $3 million potential reimbursement to Kempower over 12 years. The funding amount was based on a formula forecasting Kempower’s ability to grow the state’s economy by $726 million, including its $41 million capital investment, plus future new tax revenues and associated job growth.

NC EV map

North Carolina Department of Transportation

Because of Kempower’s decision to locate to Durham County, the state agreement also calls for North Carolina to move $1 million into the state’s Industrial Development Fund Utility Account that helps rural communities finance necessary infrastructure upgrades to attract future business.

“Many people in our area have worked behind the scenes to bring Kempower to our area,” said state Rep. Zack Hawkins (D). “Our community welcomes this global company to Durham and the Research Triangle region. All of us will continue to help its leaders connect to our community and employees find success in North Carolina.”

The state commerce department led support for Kempower during its site evaluation and decision-making process.

“North Carolina’s manufacturing workforce continues to deliver a competitive edge to companies like Kempower,” said Machelle Baker Sanders, commerce secretary.

In a related development in late December, Kempower unveiled its plan to supply EV fast-charging solutions to a Finnish company called Virta to build a new type of electric truck charging network in Sweden.

“The pre-bookable truck charging stations are designed to enable Swedish logistics companies to replace most of the current 85,000 heavy trucks with electric ones,” noted a Kempower press release.

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The Swedish venture aims to receive the first heavy trucks for charging at the end of 2023.

“Heavy vehicles and logistics play a very important role in the electrification of transport. We are proud to be involved in this remarkable project and to bring our scalable, modular and user-friendly charging solutions to truck operators in Sweden,” Ristimäki remarked. “Logistics in the country is now rapidly electrifying and we want to support this development.”