Saturday, August 15, 2009

GM Announces First U.S. Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing Plant Will Be in Michigan

When VP Biden visited NextEnergy in Detroit to announce that Michigan would receive the bulk of advanced battery grants from the stimulus/recovery act, Fritz Henderson wandered around in the crowd afterward, giving interviews to the press and chatting with people. Reaching the point of heat exhaustion and dehydration, my mind flashed on a scene of just what I might say to Fritz given the chance at that moment.

"SC2! 35 mpg! I'm getting 35 mpg highway, and you... you... you killed it! Now I'll never be able to get a new one! What in the world were you thinking with the Ion, huh? What is wrong with you people anyway?"

But then I got a drink of water and settled down, and realized that GM has learned from the error of their previous ways, and they are really trying to get it right this time. Not only have they announced that they are going to build some small cars at the Orion plant (saving jobs that might have been lost), they are announcing today that they are going to build the battery pack for the Chevy Volt at a plant in Brownstown Township. Crain's spilled the beans a few weeks ago, and it has been confirmed this morning at a press conference at the future site.

More than 100 advanced technology jobs will be created, packaging the battery cells that will power the Chevrolet Volt and other electric vehicles in GM's lineup.

Company officials and politicians gathered here Thursday morning, in an almost-empty 160,000-square-foot warehouse in an industrial park 14 miles southwest of Detroit to confirm this as the location of the plant.

The facility will be part of a wholly owned subsidiary of GM called GM Subsystem Manufacturing LLC.

This is where GM workers will weld together T-shaped packs for the lithium ion batteries that will come from LG Chem in South Korea. Eventually LG Chem's U.S. subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., also will build cells in the U.S.

Until the Brownstown facility is operational, Compact Power has been providing battery packs for the prototype Volts GM has been building for testing.

GM will initially employ 100 people and invest $43 million in the plant, they are getting $105.9 million in grants, and this will be the "first lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S." That is something to be proud of, no matter what the Detroit News says.

The Volt is a really sharp car. I saw it up close for the first time at the Biden event; it looks comfortable, sporty, but yet roomy enough for passengers (something that is an issue with my SC2), and now that they have announced it could possibly get 230 mpg (!)...

General Motors Corp. said Tuesday its Chevrolet Volt rechargeable electric car should get 230 miles per gallon (98 kilometers per liter) of gasoline in city driving, more than four times the current champion, the Toyota Prius.

The Volt is powered by an electric motor and a battery pack with a 40-mile (65-kilometer) range. After that, a small internal combustion engine kicks in to generate electricity for a total range of 300 miles (480 kilometers). The battery pack can be recharged from a standard home outlet.

GM is marketing the 230-mile (370-kilometer) figure following early tests using draft guidelines from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for calculating the mileage of extended range electric vehicles.

... it will be a game changer. It would be the first car to rate in the triple digits for EPA mileage. And, if we can build the Volt and GM's other small cars here along with the battery packs? That means jobs, jobs, jobs for Michigan.

So, wish GM all the best. It's great that they are choosing to do this here in the state. As the price of this technology falls with production and refinement of the manufacturing process, we just might have a big winner on our hands.