GM Selects S. Korea's LG Chem for Volt Batteries

John Horner
by John Horner
gm selects s korea s lg chem for volt batteries

The talk about US-based A123 receiving federal and Michigan taxpayer funding to ramp up American-made batteries for the plug-in electric – gas hybrid Chevrolet Volt seems to have been much ado about nothing. The AP (via Yahoo) reports that GM “has picked LG Chem of South Korea to supply the lithium-ion battery cells for its Chevrolet Volt.” Apparently mindful of its precarious political situation, GM makes a big deal about the South Korean cells being “assembled into battery modules and packs at a factory in Michigan.” In the mid-80s, I was a young engineer in Silicon Valley’s then booming semiconductor industry, and we outsourced the low tech, low value added final packaging and assembly offshore to places like South Korea, Taiwan and Singapore. Back then, the high value added R&D and primary manufacturing still largely happened in the US. My how times have changed.

GM’s flag-washing continued with statements from its new best friend, LG Chem’s CEO Peter Kim. Kim said his “company may eventually build cells in Michigan; and anticipates that the company’s U.S. subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., will add to its 100 person work force in Troy, Mich.” GM is also quick to point at plans to build a new 31,000 square foot battery lab at the Warren technical center; just as soon as the taxpayer pays for it all, one must presume.

Politics aside, LG Chem won by having the better design: flat cells. A123’s cylindrical cells are said to have inferior power density and heat dissipation characteristics when compared to the LG Chem design. On that basis, it sounds like GM made a good choice. But how it will all play out remains to be seen. Assuming the Volt in production ever enters something approximating mass production.

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  • JEC JEC on Jan 13, 2009

    I hope LG has improved their design and quality control - because when I worked in telcom I had to deal with a string of LG mobile products with, you guessed it, bad batteries. I'd say between 1/4 and 1/2 the products in our stock were affected. Pretty damn bad if you think about it.

  • Droid800 Droid800 on Jan 13, 2009

    @JEC Two completely different companies buddy. Following your reasoning, people shouldn't watch NBC if they had a bad GE washer and dryer, since they're both GE products.

  • Art Vandelay Interesting, the Polestar 2 I had as a rental utilized Android Automotive which is what GM said it is going to exclusively, yet it still offers Apple CarPlay according to this. Wonder if GM will do the same.
  • Stuart de Baker EVs just aren't ready for prime time for those with a single car and who take road trips. Being able to charge as soon as you arrive at a charging station, and even the chargers working on your car is a crapshoot. In the former case, you could have to wait for nearly an hour while someone else is charging.I also don't find EVs particularly fun to drive (I've driven a Tesla Model S and an Ionic 5.) I LOVE driving my '08 Civic (stick). I love the handling, the feel and responsiveness of the engine, the precise steering (the Michelin Pilot Ultra Sport tires help, but even with the snows on, the car is a joy). I have 152k on the clock, and hopefully another 25 years or so of driving (I was born early in the Eisenhower Administration and I have exceptionally healthy habits), and I'm going to try to keep the Civic for the duration.My Civic causes a less global warming emissions than some of these humongous battery operated trucks.
  • FreedMike They should throw in a Lordstown pickup with every purchase. Make it the “vapor twofer.”
  • Random1 Pretty excited about this update, I didn't see it available in mine this morning, but any day now... I think only Apple maps will be on the center display, and not Waze yet, but I assume that'll come soon enough. As to the unnecessary Tesla comment above : I'll take the build quality, the looks, and generally normal items that all cars should have over the M3 any day of the week.
  • Jonathan H. The ES production is going back to Japan so it's safe to assume its assembly building will be utilized for the new EV. Seems like a good fit for what will probably be fairly low volume compared to the Camry/Rav4 assembly lines.