Korea’s LG Chem will invest $303 million to set up a plant in Western Michigan to produce enough lithium-ion batteries to power as many as 200,000 electric vehicles annually.
The primary customer for the LIon technology will be General Motors, which last year chose LG Chem to provide batteries for the Chevrolet Volt, an extended-range electric vehicle, or E-REV, which GM plans to put into production this coming November. But the size of the new plant, which will be built in Holland, Michigan, suggests LG could seek other customers, as well.
The announcement is significant for several reasons. As part of the partnership they formed last year, GM and LG Chem set up a plant in suburban Detroit to assemble battery packs for the Volt, but the basic cells used in those packs have been coming from LG’s plants in the Far East.
Until now, the bulk of lithium-ion production has been based in Asia, primarily Japan, China and South Korea. But with the auto industry ramping up plans for new battery cars – and with the Obama Administration offerings billions of dollars in loans and grants – production is begin to expand in the United States.