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Tina Casey headshot

Ford Picks Tennessee for T3, the Electric Truck of the Future

By Tina Casey
Ford BlueOval City in Tennessee - under construction - will manufacture Project T3 electric truck

BlueOval City, Ford’s new mega-campus in West Tennessee, is taking shape and preparing to build the next-gen electric truck, code named Project T3, in 2025. Site shown as of March 10, 2023. (Image credit: Ford)

Ford staked out its claim to leadership in the electric pickup truck field when it introduced the Lightening F-150 in 2021. Now the company is back with plans to manufacture a mysterious new electric truck, known only by the name T3. One thing is already clear, though: The plan involves bringing 6,000 new green jobs to the red state of Tennessee, and that could put some state officials in a pickle.

The ESG investing fight: Do as I say, not as I do

A pattern has emerged among the two dozen or so states that are trying to thwart the use of ESG (environmental, social and governance) factors in business. In some of these states, high-profile officials rail against ESG investing as a threat to public pension funds, even as their own economic development agencies and legislatures devote considerable public resources to attract new eco-friendly businesses.

Tennessee is one such example. On Feb. 23, Tennessee Attorney General Jonathan Skrmetti joined with counterparts across 24 states in an attempt to block a new Department of Labor rule on ESG investing. The new rule simply clarifies that fiduciaries can voluntarily take climate change and other ESG elements into consideration. It does not require or force them to do so. 

The rule is also consistent with precedents established under the 1974 Employee Retirement Income Security Act, yet it still evoked howls of protest from Skrmetti and the other 24 state attorneys general. “The DOL rule sacrifices millions of Americans’ retirement plans on the altar of Environmental, Social, and Governance (“ESG”) investing by placing the radical left’s climate and social agenda above sound financial investment principles,” Skrmetti stated. Many fiduciaries argue the opposite, saying that incorporating ESG screens like climate risk bolster investments for the long term. 

Apparently, the Tennessee state legislature did not get that memo about the radical left’s climate agenda. In 2021, Tennessee legislators overwhelmingly approved a $900 million incentive package to bring Ford’s massive new BlueOval City mega-campus to West Tennessee. Described as the “largest investment in the state’s history,” BlueOval City is Ford’s showcase for electric vehicle and battery manufacturing, and it features access to renewable energy. The deal was anchored by a 4,200-acre parcel of state-owned property in Haywood County.

Ford's T3 brings even more ESG to Tennessee

Based on the overwhelming success of the Lightening F-150, Ford’s next electric truck venture is all but certain to attract the media spotlight. That’s what happened last week when Ford highlighted the mysterious new T3 in an update on its progress on BlueOval City, which is to be the future home of the T3 electric truck.

“The electric vehicle and battery manufacturing campus in West Tennessee begins production in 2025, and will be home to Ford’s second-generation electric truck, code named Project T3, and will be capable of producing 500,000 EV trucks a year at full production,” a Ford statement reads.

The company's announcement also suggested — strongly — that the radical left’s climate agenda is in full force at BlueOval City: “BlueOval City is designed to be Ford’s first carbon neutral vehicle manufacturing and battery campus as Ford works to power all Ford plants globally with renewable and carbon-free electricity by 2035."

In terms of carbon-free electricity, a quick look at the state’s grid mix indicates that Ford has its work cut out for it. Nuclear energy could fill part of the gap for now, but solar energy supplied less than 1 percent of the state’s electricity in 2022. Wind resources in the state are also less than optimal.  

Rounding up carbon-free heat for the T3 assembly plant will be an easier chore. By the time it begins operations in 2025, the plant will be heated with a combination of geothermal energy and heat recovered from an on-site power station.  

Bill Ford, the company’s executive chair and great-grandson of founder Henry Ford, also emphasized that the automaker will build “revolutionary electric vehicles at an advanced manufacturing site that works in harmony with the planet, aligning business growth and innovation with environmental progress.” He said BlueOval City will serve as a model for Ford’s global operations, which certainly puts Tennessee on the map for advancing climate action.

Tennessee loves ESG

When Ford announced BlueOval City in 2021, Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee said that “West Tennessee is primed to deliver the workforce and quality of life needed to create the next great American success story with Ford Motor Company and SK Innovation,” referring to the company that has partnered with Ford to make electric vehicle batteries.

“This is a watershed moment for Tennesseans as we lead the future of the automotive industry and advanced manufacturing,” Lee added.
That certainly sounds like an endorsement of decarbonization, and Ford appears determined to keep reminding the governor of its commitment to fight climate change.

Ford’s website includes a section dedicated to sustainability at BlueOval, in which the company emphasizes the bottom-line motivation behind its plans. “Our vision on sustainability enables our business today, sets us on the pathway for a continued strong business for decades to come, and will help build a better world,” its statement reads.  

Ford also takes the opportunity to underscore the urgent need for action on climate change, as well as waste management and the sustainable use of water resources.

The stage is set for more renewables in Tennessee, thanks to ... socialism? 

As for the social agenda of the so-called "radical left," Attorney General Skrmetti may want to look locally before casting stones at public pension fund managers. 

Tennessee happens to be the home state of the massive Tennessee Valley Authority, a leading example of federal welfare programs aimed at fostering economic development in underserved communities. Headquartered in Knoxville, TVA was established in 1933 as Depression-era program tasked with flood control and reforestation, as well as electrifying rural communities that were unable to attract private-sector investors.

TVA got an early start on renewable energy through its hydropower projects. Though it has also focused on fossil energy, in recent years the agency has been investing more resources in renewables.

The Great Depression also spawned the nationwide Rural Electric Cooperative program, which established hundreds of ratepayer-owned public utilities chartered under a public benefit mission. The Tennessee Electric Cooperative Association notes that its members serve 84 of the 95 counties in the state, accounting for 2.5 million ratepayers. If that’s not socialism, what is?

Images courtesy of Ford

Tina Casey headshot

Tina writes frequently for TriplePundit and other websites, with a focus on military, government and corporate sustainability, clean tech research and emerging energy technologies. She is a former Deputy Director of Public Affairs of the New York City Department of Environmental Protection, and author of books and articles on recycling and other conservation themes.

Read more stories by Tina Casey