GM Announces U.S. Hybrid Battery Production

By Joe Wiesenfelder  on January 11, 2009

Today, GM announced it will manufacture lithium-ion battery packs in the U.S. for its Chevrolet Volt and other future electric cars. The plant will be built at an undetermined location in Michigan "in time for Volt production," GM vice chairman Bob Lutz said following an announcement at the Detroit auto show. The Volt is scheduled for production late in 2010.

Though GM will assemble the packs domestically, the actual lithium-ion battery cells will come from South Korea's LG Chem. While GM will continue relationships with other battery technology and supply companies, this marks the company's first commitment to a battery supplier. Lutz said LG Chem got the contract because it is more experienced with prismatic cells. Though A123 was a strong contender, Lutz said, its strength is in the kind of spiral-cylindrical cells used in power tools. "A123 has good chemistry, but LG has more energy density," he said.

He also said LG Chem had a three-year head start over the smaller A123 — in part because of "massive" investment by the Korean government, reinforcing GM's desire for more government resources in energy development. The other leading battery companies are in Japan and have likewise subsidized development, domestic automakers have long argued.

LG's North American subsidiary, Compact Power, will assemble the packs for development use until the GM plant is completed.

2009 Detroit Auto Show Hybrids/Alternative Fuels

Executive Editor Joe Wiesenfelder, a launch veteran, leads the car evaluation effort. He owns a 1984 Mercedes 300D and a 2002 Mazda Miata SE.  Email Joe