GM's fully charged plan to jolt the Volt

It has selected Korean giant LG Chem to supply the cells to power its heavily hyped Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle.

Detroit – General Motors battered, beaten and living on a U.S. government handout rose from the canvas this month to unveil ambitious plans to research and manufacture lithium-ion batteries in Michigan.

It has selected Korean giant LG Chem to supply the cells to power its heavily hyped Chevrolet Volt electric vehicle.

“Our selection of LG Chem was based on performance, production readiness, efficiency, durability and LG Chem’s demonstrated track record of exceptional quality,” GM chair and CEO Rick Wagoner announced at the Detroit auto show.

“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.”

GM has been testing battery packs for the Volt, including those built by LG Chem – parent company of Compact Power in Troy, Mich. – for the past 16 months.

And while LG Chem will supply the individual cells comprising the Volt’s battery pack, GM itself will assemble the battery packs, which include the battery cells, grouped into modules, and other key components.

Each T-shaped battery pack, which is approximately 1.8 metres long, with a mass about 180 kilograms, contains almost 300 individual lithium-ion cells.

The connection of those cells together, along with other functions such as cooling of the battery pack, are critical factors in the performance, reliability and safety of the systems.

To ensure that it has full control over those factors, and to further develop its own battery expertise, GM is back in the battery manufacturing business. GM used to build lead-acid automobile batteries at its Delco subsidiary, before it was absorbed into Delphi and split off as a separate company.

“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.”

The GM battery plant will be located in Michigan, Wagoner said.

“That plant will be just one part of a comprehensive advanced battery strategy that is expanding along two pathways,” Wagoner said.

“First, we’re identifying core competencies – such as battery research, development and assembly – and integrating these fundamentals into our product development and manufacturing operations. We believe this will become a competitive advantage for GM, and will be critical to GM’s long-term success.

“Secondly, we’re building a roster of battery suppliers and academic experts from around the globe, and leveraging their specialized abilities to develop battery chemistries and cell designs, as well as future automotive battery engineers.”

GM’s advanced battery strategy includes joining with the University of Michigan to create an automotive advanced battery lab in Ann Arbor, Mich., and a specialized curriculum within U of M’s College of Engineering to develop automotive battery engineers.

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