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New GM plant to assemble Chevy Volt batteries

Battery assembly plant in Michigan goes into production Thursday, with the batteries and cells themselves coming from South Korea.

GM Engineering Group Manager Bill Wallace at GM's battery lab in October with prototype of the Chevy Volt battery pack the new plant will assemble. Steve Fecht for General Motors

General Motors' assembly plant for its Chevy Volt battery is set to begin production on Thursday.

The company claims it will be "the first lithium ion battery pack manufacturing plant in the U.S. operated by a major automaker."

To be more precise, the 160,000 square-foot plant will be run by GM's wholly-owned subsidiary GM Subsystem Manufacturing. And the GM Brownstown Assembly Plant is just that: an assembly plant.

The Chevy Volt battery packs assembled at the plant in Brownstown Township, Mich.--about 20 miles south of Detroit--will consist of batteries manufactured by South Korea's LG Chem with cells from LG Chem subsidiary Compact Power.

Each Chevy Volt battery pack will have about 220 cells and cost about $8,000, as previously announced by GM.

If attendees are any indication, GM seems to be using Thursday's kick-off event to showcase its latest technology and to rally consumer and employee confidence in the U.S. auto industry. U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu and GM CEO Ed Whitacre will attend the ceremonial start-up of the plant's operation.

The news also confirms analyst predictions about up-and-coming players in the battery industry. In August, Lux Research predicted that batteries and the energy storage market in general will become a $60 billion industry by 2013, with Compact Power becoming a leading developer in lithium ion batteries for electric hybrid cars. A September report from Lux on electric vehicles also predicted that lithium-ion batteries for electric and plug-in hybrid cars alone could become a $510 million market by 2020.

Update at 8:40 a.m. PST January 7: The information on Lux's predictions has been expanded.