GM Announces Battery Assembly Production

On Thurs., Jan. 7, exactly three years to the day the Chevrolet Volt concept car was revealed, General Motors takes another historic step in mass production of the vehicle and a giant leap for the auto industry from a petroleum-filled past to a potentially gas-free future.

At 10:00 a.m., GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre, along with Gov. Jennifer Granholm, U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, leading government officials and honored guests will witness the start of battery production at the GM Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant.

The plant, located in Brownstown Township, Mich., is the first lithium ion battery pack manufacturing plant in the U.S. operated by a major automaker.

Media planning to attend are asked to arrive at the plant by 9:45 a.m.

The lithium ion battery packs will be used in the Chevrolet Volt electric car, which is slated to begin production later this year.

Chu’s presence underscores the importance that the Volt and other electric vehicles could have on cutting consumer reliance on foreign oil. GM is receiving about $241 million in federal grants, including $106 million for its planned battery pack assembly factory in Brownstown Township.

The $43 million lithium-ion battery plant alongside Interstate 75 is in the Brownstown Business Center industrial park. Brownstown Township, a Downriver community 14 miles southwest of Detroit, has approved a 50 percent tax break on new machinery and equipment for up to 12 years — a deal worth several million dollars.

The Volt is scheduled to go on sale late this year and will let commuters travel up to 40 miles on electric power. The engine kicks in after its battery is drained by about 70 percent to sustain the battery’s remaining charge to keep the car running for several hundred miles.

GM plans to produce about 8,000 Volts for the 2011 model year before eventually expanding to as many as 60,000 a year.