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Make No Mistake: Batteries Are Being Developed in the U.S.

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By Bob Kruse - Global Hybrid, Electric Vehicle and Battery Engineering Executive Director

Our recent announcement that GM would produce the battery modules and packs for the Chevrolet Volt has created a lot of excitement. And it should. Our facility will be the first lithium-ion battery manufacturing plant operated by a major automaker in the U.S., and will create new “green” jobs. The Volt’s batteries will use cells sourced from LG Chem, which is based in South Korea. And that has led to the inaccurate perception the Volt’s battery development is being led outside the U.S. - so let me clear up any confusion.The Volt’s battery design, development and vehicle integration is and will continue to be done right here in the U.S., in Michigan. Now, battery cells undoubtedly are the basis of any battery, but they don’t guarantee a first-class, finished product. Look at it this way: a well-poured concrete foundation for a new home is important, but it doesn’t automatically mean the finished house will meet the owner’s expectations. You need the expertise of architects, electricians, plumbers and carpenters to finish the job. That is GM’s role in the Volt’s battery value chain. We write the software and produce the electronic controls that operate the battery. We design the battery pack. We integrate the battery into the vehicle. We design the vehicle, and maximize the battery’s capabilities to meet the Volt’s unique performance expectations, such as up to 40 miles of electric-only driving.

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With more than 15 years of advanced battery development experience and an extensive powertrain controls strategy, GM arguably has industry leading expertise in this area. And we continue to add to our resources, with the largest automotive battery lab in the U.S. We’ll officially open the facility this spring, but here’s a sneak peek from one of our webcams of an area of the lab that is already operational. Controlling the entire battery development process, from individual cell management to vehicle integration is unique in the auto industry and gives GM a competitive advantage. How? It improves vehicle integration and safety, and provides flexibility to quickly adapt to other chemistries or cells should they come along in the future.

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So, while it’s correct that the battery cells are currently coming from overseas, all of the critical development to take cells and design, develop and build the industry’s most sophisticated electric vehicle battery pack is being led by GM right here, in the U.S. And we’ll continue to lead. In addition to officially opening the new battery lab, we’ll keep working with the University of Michigan on advanced battery R&D and educating future battery engineers. We also plan to disclose more details regarding our battery pack manufacturing facility in the near future. But for now, I hope I’ve answered some of your questions and I look forward to reading your comments.

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