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.”
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.
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 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.
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, 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.