Electric Cars Spurring Investment in US Battery Production

US has fallen off the map as a volume lithium-ion cell producer.

Published: 19-Jan-2009

At last month’s Detroit Auto Show, General Motors made the long-awaited announcement that LG Chem, a Korean lithium-ion-battery-cell manufacturer, will be providing the cells for the Chevy Volt PHEV (plug-in-hybrid-electric vehicle). GM made much of the fact that it will assemble keep assembly of the battery pack in the United States. However, the guts of a battery pack, both in weight, cost, and intellectual property, are in the cells, of which the United States has apparently fallen off the map in being a volume producer.

Contrast these start-up ventures with BYD’s F3DM PHEV, which it unveiled a few weeks ago in China and planned to begin selling in the United States for around $20,000, in 2011, priced at around $20,000. BYD got its start making after-market lithium-ion batteries for cell phones, and got into the EV-battery market on the strength of its founder’s belief that the future of transportation lay in EVs. BYD has more than 20 years’ experience developing and manufacturing lithium-ion batteries.

Innovation over the long haul in a technology often goes hand in hand with volume production. The United States may be unable to retake and maintain a lead in battery development unless it also keeps the manufacturing here.


The battery system was developed by CSIRO in Australia, built by the Furukawa Battery Company of Japan and tested in the United Kingdom through the American-based Advanced Lead-Acid Battery Consortium.

The new batteries will make the GM Hybrid System nearly three times more powerful than the system it replaces. Pictured is 2009 Saturn Vue Green Line with Two-mode hybrid drive.

Dramatic developments in stored-power technology make electric cars more viable than ever. Pictures is Th!nk Global's new Ox crossover vehicle.


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