President Obama will be charging through Michigan Thursday, stopping in Holland to mark the groundbreaking of the new LG Chem battery plant that will begin supplying lithium-ion packs to the nation’s two largest domestic automakers in 2012.
The Korean-owned plant, scheduled to be one of the first in this country to produce the basic lithium-ion cells for battery vehicles like the 2011 Chevrolet Volt will also produce batteries for Ford’s upcoming Focus Electric model, that automaker announced Tuesday.
Obama’s visit will be more than the classic political meet-and-greet session. The president will use his visit to the site of the LG Chem plant to focus on his administration’s efforts to expand the production and sales of plug-in hybrids, pure battery-electric vehicles (BEVs) and other battery-based cars, trucks and crossover.
For his part, the president is calling for the auto industry to be selling 1 million plug-ins, extended-range electric vehicles (the proper description of the Volt) and battery-electric vehicles by 2015.
While skeptics warn the technology is likely to remain expensive and limited in application for more than a decade to come, proponents insist that costs will come down –while consumer demand should rise — as manufacturers ramp up production of both batteries and battery vehicles. Though LG Chem’s facility is still two years from production, as many as four high-volume lithium-ion factories are expected to be operating by year’s end, including one in Indianapolis supplying the Norwegian-based Think!, which plans to produce its 2-seat City minicar in Elkhart, Indiana.