Michigan Powers Job Creation with Electric Car Battery Production

Hybrid and electric cars offer a range of benefits, including reduced emissions and enhanced energy security. But new jobs are the most immediate payout from government support of advanced auto technologies and lithium batteries. Michigan will add thousands of new jobs as it ramps up to manufacture as many as 400,000 battery packs a year by 2012.

A frenzy of manufacturing activity began last August when Vice President Joe Biden came to Michigan to announce $2.4 billion in grants for the electric vehicle industry from the US Department of Energy. Projects in Michigan received $1.36 billion—more than half of that money.

Federal grants totaling $860 million, and more than $700 million in state tax credits, are specifically going to battery makers to build new factories in Michigan. In total, more than $5.3 billion in electric vehicle-related projects have been started or announced in Michigan, said Doug Parks, senior vice president of business development for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Jumpstarting the Economy with Battery Production

In a letter sent to hourly workers last week, Ford announced that it will build battery packs for hybrid and electric cars at its Rawsonville Components Plant in Ypsilanti Township. The move is part of a $450 million investment that will bring new jobs to the area and protect hundreds of others. Earlier this year, the company announced plans to build a range of hybrids and electric cars at its Michigan Assembly Plant in Wayne. Together, the two projects are expected to create 1,000 new jobs in the state by 2012.

US Congressman John Dingell, the long-standing defender of the status quo in fuel efficiency, is now full of praise for electric-drive vehicle manufacturing. His district includes Ypsilanti Township. “Our corner of Michigan is becoming a hotbed for such activity, with GM’s Brownstown facility building a similar product and A123 Batteries hiring workers at facilities in Ann Arbor and Romulus,” Dingell said in a statement. “These kinds of projects will help strengthen our economy and our environment as well as decrease our reliance other countries for oil.”

In January, the first Chevy Volt battery pack was produced at GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant.

Who’s Building?

Billions of dollars in incentives from federal, state and local governments have resulted in projects in Holland, Midland, Livonia, Romulus and Brownstown Township.

  • Compact Power/LG Chem

    South Korea-based LG Chem and its subsidiary Compact Power will provide batteries to the Chevy Volt plug-in hybrid. The Volt’s batteries will come from a new plant LG Chem plans to build in Holland, Mich. This year, the battery maker plans to break ground on a $300-million, 650,000-square-foot battery plant that is to start operating in 2012 and could employ as many as 400 people.

  • Johnson Controls-Saft

    The joint venture between the Milwaukee-based auto supplier and French battery maker Saft has lined up Ford, BMW and Mercedes-Benz as customers. It plans to convert a factory in Holland, Mich., to start making batteries next year. The plant will employ 550 people at full capacity.

  • A123 Systems

    A123 is building two plants in metro Detroit. The company has battery deals with Fisker and Chrysler. A factory in Romulus will coat the copper and aluminum sheets used in its batteries. Its factory in Livonia will build enough batteries for 25,000 plug-in hybrid vehicles a year by 2012.

  • EnerDel

    Indianapolis-based battery maker EnerDel signed on with Norwegian electric vehicle maker Think and will supply to a pilot electric version of the Volvo C30. By the end of this year, EnerDel plans to have the capacity to build batteries for 12,000 vehicles by the end of this year, and 60,000 by 2012.

  • Dow Kokam

    Dow Kokam, a venture between Dow Chemical and investment firm Townsend Capital will break ground this year on a battery plant in Midland. The plant, which will make batteries and battery packs, will open in 2012, employing more than 300 people at peak production.

Electric cars and more hybrids are definitely on the way. Then, there’s the question we posed a few weeks ago: What happens if these production goals exceed the high consumer demand for electrified vehicles anticipated by automakers? With jobs in short supply and the global auto industry taking a decisive turn toward electrification, Michigan is more than willing to build now and worry later. “You risk doing nothing and then you’ve lost everything” Eric Shreffler, development director for advanced energy storage at the Michigan Economic Development Corp. told the Detroit Free Press.


  • Scott Savola

    Here’s a song about living in this Michigan economy: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v_uqXVJtzbw

  • ex-EV1 driver

    Go Michigan!

  • veek

    Best wishes to the people of Michigan — they deserve some good news!

    Just a suggested correction. Unless the good people in the DOE dipped charitably and deeply into their pockets, the DOE did not supply the $2.4 billion for these projects. That’s important to keep in mind. It’s a partnership, but the money primarily came from the sweat of the US taxpayers, their children (who will be repaying the debt), and our lenders in China and other parts of the world.

    As much as our politicians would like to take credit for this, they are also not the “brains” of the outfit, either. The government, including our politicians, are unlikely to design, engineer, or install a single battery or build a single vehicle. That will be done by the managers, engineers, and workers of the companies you listed.

  • T. Thayumanavar

    But due to the government’s initiative and lead such ventures are being planned and getting executed basically. Kudos to the US government for the direction and hope other governments can also follow in the world. Power will be available from many sources in few decades and it will be buyers market in future…

  • JBob

    Be nice to know what kind of battery technologies they are focusing on for the future.

    Lithium is the current trend, before that NiCad, before that Lead Acid. So what are currently in development as the next iteration of batteries.

    Found it interesting that Porche is looking into small flywheels for storage. Be nice to see what others are looking into as well.

  • ex-EV1 driver

    JBob,
    Lithium ion is definitely the trend today. NiMH was actually in-between NiCad and Li-ion. It was a lot more environmentally friendly with the Metal Hydrid instead of the Cadmium. Most of the more advanced production EVs from the ’90′s (that were destroyed) used NiMH, including the gen2 EV1 and the RAV4EV. NiMH had about twice the Specific Energy (Wh/kg) as Lead Acid. Li-ion is running about twice the Specific Energy of NiMH but I suspect that there is room for improvement with both of these. There has also been some work on Zinc-Sulfur and other materials but I suspect the focus will be on increasing the cycle life, calendar life, and Specific Energy of Lithium-based batteries.

  • Mike Smith

    Anyone have a guess as to whether this will make hyrbid batteries cheaper to replace in cars already on the road? That is bound to be a big market as batteries start to wear out. Right now though it is roughly 1500-2000 dollars to replace one.

  • Gary

    What happens if the Green economy doesn’t take off, I mean you can’t force people to buy things they don’t want. And I don’t see to many people clamering for electric cars & in a down turn in the economy who can afford one when the savings don’t come back to you for about 3 years… any way good luck building batteries for cars that don’t exist and no one wants.

  • ALEX A.

    Gary, gas prices will not stay the same forever and based on various reports and articles looks like in two or three years gas prices will hover around 6 dollars a gallon, especially since China has upped its production level. People will fill waiting lists for EV, especially the cars like the VOLT.

  • Brant Young

    okay, Everyone on here needs to shut up. You are all fat and i’m a bastard. Suck on it snitches! 8====>

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