GM brings Spark EV batteries in-house to Mich. plant

Last month, GM announced the Brownstown Township factory would receive a $65 million investment.
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DETROIT -- General Motors is moving production of the battery pack for its all-electric model of the Chevrolet Spark minicar in-house at the company’s battery assembly plant in suburban Detroit.

The lithium ion battery packs for the Spark EV had been supplied by A123 Systems, a Michigan company that filed for bankruptcy in 2012 and later was acquired by Wanxiang Group, China’s largest auto supplier.

Last month, GM announced the Brownstown Township factory would receive a $65 million investment toward expansion of lithium ion battery manufacturing. The company long has pushed for in-house development and manufacturing of electric vehicles.

Unlike most other automakers, GM assembles its own battery packs and some of the motors for its EVs and plug-in hybrids. Last year, it started manufacturing the Spark EV’s 85-kilowatt electric motor at GM’s powertrain plant in White Marsh, Md., near Baltimore.

“Using our in-house engineering and manufacturing expertise enabled us to deliver a battery system that is more efficient and lighter than the 2014 Spark EV without sacrificing range,” Larry Nitz, executive director of GM global transmission and electrification engineering, said in the statement today.

The 479,000-square-foot Brownstown battery assembly plant -- which started mass production in 2010 and employs about 100 workers -- manufactures the lithium ion battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR extended-range electric vehicles.

GM also announced that the 2015 Spark EV, which starts at $19,995 after federal tax incentives, will have a battery system weight of 474 pounds, which is 86 pounds lighter than the 2014 model. It will have storage capacity of 19 kilowatts and use 192 lithium ion cells. The cells will be manufactured at Korean battery manufacturer LG Chemical’s plant in Holland, Mich.

The lighter Spark EV battery pack will not change the vehicle’s 119 mpg equivalent or the 82-mile range on a single charge, said GM spokeswoman Annalisa Bluhm.

“The 2015 Spark battery has a different configuration but ensures the same performance,” Bluhm said.

GM spokesman Dave Darovitz said no new jobs will be generated by the production of the Spark EV battery packs.

“We have the capacity to integrate into our own work force,” Darovitz said. “We will add jobs if consumer demand requires it.”

GM will continue to expand the Spark EV market in California and Oregon with the 2015 model in the fall.

You can reach Nora Naughton at nnaughton@crain.com.


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