Around a year after it was scheduled to begin U.S. production of lithium-ion battery packs for the Chevy Volt, Ford Focus EV and other applications, LG Chem announced yesterday that it will at last get started in a couple of months.
“Test runs have already begun at the facility and the company is targeting the start of commercial production this July,” said the company of the plant in Holland, Mich. “LGCMI anticipates shipping product by the end of this summer,”
Before it can begin shipping, the first step, says the company, is a “Production Part Approval Process” and customer approval.
The Korean company’s $303 million, 600,000-square-foot assembly plant held back after sales of the Volt slowed with just 7,671 units sold in calendar year 2011, but 23,361 units sold in 2012 have since been recorded and this year GM is projecting around 36,000 Volt sales.
Because of the delayed massive plant standing unproductive, staffed, and accepting federal grant monies, news reports and commentaries have come along pointing to it as a sign of potential failure for the EV industry. In January federal auditors charged back LG Chem $842,000 for retaining workers who played games while being paid from federal coffers.
By way of explanation, LG Chem said it was in an awkward gray area it faced and claimed uncertainty on what to do with already trained workers expected to go to work sooner or later.
But those bad old days appear to be fading into history and undoubtedly EV proponents hope to chalk it up to teething pains for the nascent industry, as does LG Chem.
“LGCMI remains committed to achieving the vision on which our Holland facility was built,” said LG Chem of Michigan President Sain Park.
The company expects also to add two more assembly lines by September 2015 to contribute to output from three assembly lines it now operates.