Oh, GM. How we love and loathe you at the same time. The same company that aided in the obliteration of the U.S. auto industry is now taking small steps to build it back up. GM's prized Chevy Volt plug-in electric vehicle won't be released until later this year, but the company is about to become the first U.S. automaker to open up a battery pack factory in the U.S.
The $43 million factory, scheduled to open in two days, is located in the Detroit suburb of Brownstone Township. The lithium ion batteries produced in the factory won't be entirely U.S.-made--they will use cells from Korean company LG Chem, but the battery packs will all be put together in Michigan. It's an important first step in expanding the lithium ion battery industry, which is currently centered in Asia.
GM might be the first U.S. automaker to build a li-ion plant in the country, but it probably won't be the last. A number of li-ion companies are setting up shop in the US thanks to billions in federal stimulus funds. Among the companies are EnerDel, Johnson Controls, Nissan and Saft America. GM received $106 million from the government for the construction of its plant. The next U.S. auto maker to build a li-ion plant will be a bit different from auto behemoth GM. California-based startup Tesla Motors is set to open a powertrain and battery pack assembly plant in 2011.
We should have said that GM is the first major American automaker to open a battery plant in the US. Rachel Konrad over at Tesla Motors tells us: Tesla has been producing battery packs in the USA for at least two years. We produce the battery pack for the Tesla Roadster and for Daimler's Smart city car in a factory in San Carlos, California, where Tesla is headquartered. I'm not sure how it could possibly be interpreted that GM is the first to produce battery packs in the USA, as Tesla has been doing it for quite some time and the Tesla Roadster remains the *only* highway-capable EV for sale today."