DRIVING THE FUTURE OF THE UPSTATE
Automotive + EV Cluster
South Carolina understands what drives the automotive industry. Home to the world’s largest BMW production facility, and Volvo and Mercedes-Benz assembly plants, and the newly announced Scout Motors, our state’s automotive excellence is revving into high gear. There are 33 passenger and commercial vehicle plants within a one-day’s drive of Upstate SC.
With a high concentration of engineering talent and cluster of automotive companies, Upstate SC has become one of the nation’s most dynamic regions for automotive production and research. From composite materials to autonomous systems, collaborative research driven by corporate partnerships is accelerating change in the automotive industry.
And with a central location to the Battery Belt and an ecosystem that includes battery technology, recyclers and producers, the electric vehicle industry is charging up in the Upstate.
Employing more than 11,000 people to produce X3, X4, X5, X6 and X7 models, BMW Plant Spartanburg is the company’s largest worldwide production facility, producing more than 1,500 vehicles each day. To date, BMW has invested over $10.5 billion in Upstate South Carolina.
BMW Spartanburg currently produces nine gas-powered models and two plug-in hybrids, and they are revving up to make six new electric-vehicle models for 2026. The electric build out includes a $1 billion investment in the existing facility, a $700 million high-voltage battery assembly facility in the city of Woodruff, and a partnership with battery producer AESC in Florence SC.
In 1973, Michelin established its first United States production facility within the Upstate. Since then, Michelin has established multiple Upstate locations, including its North American Headquarters, training facility, research center, test track and five production facilities.
ZF’s largest U.S. facility produces fuel-efficient 8- and 9-speed automatic transmissions for the passenger car and light truck market. At 1.4 million square feet and with more than 3,000 employees, the plant produces more than 1.2 million transmissions per year. In 2025, the facility will begin manufacturing the eight-speed plug-in hybrid transmission known as 8HP Gen4 PHEV.
Tactical vehicle manufacturer Oshkosh Defense is establishing a $155 million Upstate production facility for zero-emission battery electric vehicles and fuel-efficient low-emission internal combustion engine vehicles used in the United States Postal Service (USPS) Next Generation Delivery Vehicle (NGDV) program.
Clemson University International Center for Automotive Research
Cutting-edge mobility technologies and the next generation of engineers are emerging from CU-ICAR, a collaborative research park that brings industry and education together. For mobility and technology companies that want to join the Upstate’s ecoystem, the 250-acre campus has office space from turnkey workspace to longterm lease options.
Home to Clemson’s Department of Automotive Engineering, CU-ICAR has awarded 800+ Masters degrees and 100+ Doctoral degrees, and has established an Undergraduate program with a focus on EV and autonomous vehicles.
Through industry-sponsored research and centers such as the Clemson Center for Advanced Manufacturing and the Clemson Composites Center, Upstate minds are creating advancements in: advanced powertrains, systems integration, vehicular electronics, human factors/HMI, manufacturing and materials, vehicle-to-vehicle infrastructure, and propulsion. Electric vehicle research includes battery electrochemistry and materials; battery manufacturing; battery control, management, and vehicle integration; and electric charging and grid integration.
International Transportation Innovation Center
The International Transportation Innovation Center (iTiC) develops premier technology testbeds to support all forms of mobility innovations, including zero-emission, automated and connected vehicles and systems. iTiC provides automakers, technology suppliers, research universities, and startups the ability to test and develop their innovations in open and/or closed testbed environments.
South Carolina Automotive Council
Established as an initiative by the South Carolina’s Manufacturers Alliance, the South Carolina Automotive Council is a member-based organization committed to serving automotive-related manufacturers through programs, services, advocacy and partnership.
South Carolina has a strong technical training and workforce development system. To support the growing demand for engineering expertise, CU-ICAR is graduating technical leaders possessing the critical thinking, technical skills, and creativity necessary to handle ever-increasing product complexity in a global environment. Supplying technical positions for the automotive industry, the SC Technical College System works hand-in-hand with its affiliate programs: readySC™, Apprenticeship Carolina™ and QuickJobs Carolina™, so companies located in the area can take full advantage of the extensive education and training networks.
Upstate South Carolina is home to four technical colleges focused on serving the needs of local business and industry. The technical college system in the Upstate offers multiple automotive related degrees and certificates, including:
- Mechatronics Technology
- Automotive Technology
- Mechanical Engineering Technology with Auto Focus
- Welding Programs
- Machine Tool Technology
- Lean Manufacturing & ISO Programs
The Center for Manufacturing Innovation
The Center for Manufacturing Innovation (CMI) is a collaboration between a leading research university, an innovative technical college and manufacturers to create a center that enhances the development and implementation of advanced manufacturing technologies. The primary goal for CMI is to increase the number of skilled workers to close the skills gap in manufacturing by offering curriculum designed to meet industry needs. CMI features the first-of-its-kind manufacturing honors college as well as incubation space for start-ups.
Located at CMI, the Vehicle Assembly Center is a collaboration of CU-ICAR, Greenville Technical College, BMW Manufacturing and Siemens. The 4,000-square-foot center has a full vehicle assembly line, joining lab, sub-assembly lab, embedded devices lab, collaborative robotics center and autonomous factory vehicles.
REVVED: Collaborative EV Education
Through REVVED, a consortium of institutions are “Revolutionizing Electric Vehicle Education” using evidence-based research to investigate integration of virtual and augmented reality systems to support electric vehicle manufacturing and education. Education partners include Clemson University, Greenville Technical College, Spartanburg Community College & Trident Technical College. Industry partners include BMW, Daimler, Michelin, Proterra and Volvo.