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GM opens auto battery research plant

New research and development facility in Michigan will allow GM to test lithium ion battery packs for the Chevy Volt as well as other energy storage systems.

General Motors opened the doors to a battery research and development plant in Michigan on Monday, a facility the company says will accelerate its move to electric vehicles.

The Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Mich., will be used to test the lithium ion batteries planned for the Chevy Volt as well as other energy storage systems such as ultracapacitors, GM said.

Destined for a Volt: the lithium ion battery pack to be used in the Chevy Volt and potentially other GM electric vehicles. General Motors

The facility, at 33,000 square feet, is four times larger than GM's existing testing operation and will be used by 1,000 engineers, according to the company which hosted a ceremony with Michigan governor Jennifer Granholm and GM CEO Fritz Henderson.

"Our new lab improves GM's competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt," Henderson said in a statement.

Construction of the plant started last August and full operation began in May of this year.

Earlier this year, GM said that it would enter the battery business because the technology is considered strategic to its future cars. The auto giant, which filed for bankruptcy protection last week, said it still intends to have the Chevy Volt electric car available by the end of 2010.

The facility will be able to test the properties of individual cells as well as battery packs. General Motors intends to build its own battery packs for the Chevy Volt, using cells and control electronics from LG Chem.