New GM, LG Chem joint venture to build EV battery plant in U.S.
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General Motors and battery partner LG Chem announce the establishment of a battery-manufacturing and development joint venture for future GM-made electric vehicles, such as the Cadillac EV concept, above. (GM)

New GM, LG Chem joint venture to build EV battery plant in U.S.

General Motors and LG Chem announce a new joint venture to mass-produce lithium-ion battery cells at a greenfield site in Ohio.

General Motors and longtime battery partner LG Chem announced the companies are forming an equally-owned joint-venture (JV) company to mass-produce lithium-ion batteries for future electric vehicles (EVs). The new company will build a battery cell assembly plant in northeast Ohio near the site of GM’s recently shuttered Lordstown assembly plant.

In a press conference on December 5, GM Chairman and CEO Mary Barra said the JV will invest up to $2.3 billion and the plant will employ more than 1,100 to annually assemble more than 30 gigawatt-hours of total battery capacity. Groundbreaking is slated for mid-2020. “The plant will be extremely flexible and able to adapt to ongoing advances in technology and materials,” GM said in a statement, adding that the new joint venture would “drive cost per kilowatt hours to industry-leading levels.”

GM said the new JV also includes an agreement to develop and produce advanced battery technologies “with the goal of reducing battery costs to industry-leading levels.” The companies were not specific, however, about the technical capabilities or the cost of the battery cells slated for production from the plant. According to battery experts, costs for EV batteries must be reduced to $100 per kWh or less to make EVs more competitive with internal-combustion vehicles for use by mid-market consumers. 

“We’re not going to talk about specific costs,” said Barra, adding that the new JV and the Ohio plant will allow GM to “accelerate and get to industry-leading cost levels.” Barra recently confirmed GM will build an electric pickup truck at a retooled GM plant in Detroit starting in 2021 and will next year will reveal another Chevrolet-badged EV to accompany today’s Bolt (launched in 2016). An expanded range of EV models is one factor experts say is required to drive deeper investments from battery developers.

“Our joint venture with the number one American automaker will further prepare us for the anticipated growth of the North American EV market, while giving us insights into the broader EV ecosystem,” said LG Chem vice chairman & CEO Hak-Cheol Shin in a release. “Our long-standing history with General Motors has proven our collective expertise in this space, and we look forward to continuing this drive for zero emissions.”

LG Chem’s website suggests a third generation of its battery chemistry coming in 2020 will offer the potential for battery packs with approximately 311 mi (500 km) of range that can be recharged – presumably via DC fast-charging – to 80% of capacity in as little as 30 minutes. Barra said that GM’s consumer research has indicated that 300 miles of range is what many consumers have indicated is desirable.

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