More than two years ago, Korean tech company LG Chem opened a battery plant in Holland, Michigan, with a deal to produce batteries for the Chevy Volt. But slow sales have meant not enough work for the plant, which finally went online this month. The first Volts sporting American-made LG chem batteries will hit streets sometime this fall.
The $300 million battery plant was built with a $151 million government grant, and a Federal audit in February revealed that workers were being paid to do a whole lotta nothing. Only about 200 of the promised 400 jobs were filled, and LG Chem was asked to repay $842,000 of the grant, the amount that went towards paying people to not work. Many pundits pointed to the whole situation as another waste of government money.
But with Volt sales up 9% for the year so far, the LG Chem plant is finally ready to start cranking out American-made battery packs. Up until now, LG built the battery packs in Korea and shipped them stateside, but increasing EV and plug-in hybrid sales mean it finally makes sense to start building them stateside.
The LG Chem plant has an annual capacity of 60,000 battery packs per year, though so far Volt sales have accounted for only about ⅙ of that capacity. But rising Volt sales are about to merge with the launch of the highly-anticipated Cadillac ELR, and in a few more years the plant could be working at full capacity to provide enough battery packs for GM. With the Chevy Volt price already dropping by $5,000, this move to domestic batteries comes at the right time for GM, and there could be future savings to be had as well.
The Chevy Volt just got a little bit more American. If you ask me, it’s about time.