General Motors announced that has awarded Korean manufacturer LG Chem the contract to provide advanced Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery cells for its upcoming Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid. In an unexpected follow-up, GM head man Rick Wagoner also indicated that GM will build a new battery assembly facility, the first by any major U.S. automaker, to turn the individual cells that LG will supply into finished battery packs. Pending final approvals, this new 31,000 sq.-ft. facility is slated to be built in southeastern Michigan. Wagoner also announced that GM will be helping underwrite a new automotive advanced battery lab at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Michigan and a specialized curriculum within U of M's College of Engineering aimed at creating a new generation of home-grown automotive battery engineers.
GM's projected timetable for its new battery factory will see production start in mid-2010. Until then Compact Power Inc., a Troy-based subsidiary of LG Chem will build battery packs for Volt prototype vehicles. The General also has signed a joint engineering contract with Compact Power and LG Chem to further expedite the development of the Volt's Lithium-ion battery technology.
According to Wagner, the decision to go with LG Chem came as the result of more than 16 months of successful evaluation. "Our selection of LG Chem was based on performance, production readiness, efficiency, durability and LG Chem's demonstrated track record of exceptional quality," Wagoner said. "At GM, we believe the technical strengths of LG Chem, combined with our own engineering and manufacturing expertise, will help position us as a key player in the development of electrically driven vehicles today and in the future."
He went on to indicate that this is merely the start of what will become far-reaching involvement in the emerging electric vehicle world. "The design, development and production of advanced batteries must be a core competency for GM, and we've been rapidly building our capability and resources to support this direction," Wagoner said. "This is a further demonstration of our commitment to the electrification of the automobile and to the Chevrolet Volt -- a commitment that now totals more than $1 billion."