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2009 GM Begins Lithium-Ion Battery Plant Review

August 2009
Filed under: GM Car News | GM Headlines
GM will invest $43 million in Brownstown Township, Mich. to manufacture lithium-ion battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt and other extended-range electric vehicles. It is the first lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant in the U.S. operated by a major automaker, and demonstrates GM's commitment to deliver more fuel-efficient vehicles to consumers.

The plant will provide more than 100 advanced technology jobs and will be part of a wholly owned subsidiary of General Motors called GM Subsystem Manufacturing LLC. Local and state incentives, along with Recovery Act funding announced last week by the U.S. Department of Energy, are helping to make the facility possible.

The investment includes renovation and lease costs for the 160,000-square-foot landfill-free facility, new machinery and equipment, and special tooling. With the exception of specialized battery machinery and equipment, GM is reusing equipment from other GM facilities. Equipment installation at the Brownstown site is under way and production will start in the fourth quarter of 2010 to support the launch of the Chevrolet Volt.

"Developing and producing advanced batteries is a key step in GM's journey to become the leader in electric vehicles," said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO. "This state-of-the-art battery manufacturing site reinforces our commitment to achieve that goal and to deliver clean, fuel-efficient vehicles to our customers."

Henderson also noted the importance of this new technology to the nation's and Michigan's overall economic growth.

"Advanced battery development is a critical component that will strengthen the long-term competitiveness and technology leadership of the United States," he said. "At our Brownstown facility, GM will help deliver domestically produced and affordable energy sources for American consumers while creating U.S.-based manufacturing jobs."

The GM Brownstown Battery Assembly facility will include three primary assembly areas: battery module pre-assembly, final assembly and the battery pack main line. The pre-assembly area is where cells are processed and installed into one of three battery modules, which comprise a single battery pack. The module final assembly area is where final assembly and testing of the three modules required for each battery pack takes place. In the battery pack main line area, the battery receives its final dressing including attachments of hoses, straps and electrical connections. The main line is also where battery pack final testing, verification and packaging for shipment takes place.

"The GM Brownstown Battery Assembly plant will use flexible manufacturing layouts as well as equipment, which will enable the plant to quickly respond to volume or product changes in the market," said Gary Cowger, GM group vice president, manufacturing and labor relations. "We'll use a number of tools to ensure quality in every phase of the battery assembly process."

The Chevrolet Volt will be GM's first extended-range electric vehicle to receive the new plant's lithium-ion battery. The Volt's 16-kWh battery is the heart of GM's Voltec electric propulsion system and consists of 150 unique parts. GM designed and engineered all but eight parts.

The Volt, which is scheduled to start production in late 2010 as a 2011 model, can travel up to 40 miles on electricity from a single battery charge and can extend its overall range to more than 300 miles with its flex fuel-powered engine-generator. The Volt is expected to be the first mass-produced vehicle to claim a triple-digit composite (city/highway) fuel economy rating. It achieves city fuel economy of at least 230 miles per gallon under the current draft U.S. Environmental Protection Agency fuel economy test procedure for plug-in electric vehicles.

In June, GM opened the largest and most technologically advanced battery lab in the United States on its Technical Center campus in Warren, Mich. The new GM Brownstown Battery Assembly plant will work closely with GM's Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, which is dedicated to GM's advanced battery development and testing for electrically driven vehicles.

"The capability to develop, test and manufacture advanced batteries in-house is a tremendous competitive advantage," said Bob Kruse, executive director of GM's Global Vehicle Engineering for hybrids, electric vehicles and batteries. "With the Brownstown battery plant we can control the entire development and production of this important technology."

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