GM to spend $449 million to prepare for production of next-gen Volt

Article by Christian A., on April 10, 2014

General Motors is planning to make a $449-million investment at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and Brownstown Battery Assembly site for producing the next generation Chevrolet Volt and two undisclosed future vehicles. GM said in a statement that the investment covers $384 million for Detroit-Hamtramck for new body shop tooling, equipment, and additional facility upgrades.

It also covers $65 million for the Brownstown site to help develop the next generation of lithium-ion battery production and future battery systems. GM’s North American manufacturing vice president, said in the statement, that the investments will help the new Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid build on its position as the leader in electrified propulsion.

He declined to disclose whether the investments would result to new jobs or keep existing jobs at the operations. He said during an Automotive Press Association event that they will just allow market to tell what the need will be. Johnson said that the $384 million earmarked for Detroit-Hamtramck is the largest single investment the carmaker has made in the site.

GM has already invested over $1 billion at Detroit-Hamtramck in the last five years. The Detroit-Hamtramck plant currently has around 1,600 workers on a single shift. It is the sole producer of the Chevrolet Volt. Aside from the hybrid, the site also builds the Cadillac ELR, the Chevy Impala and Malibu, and the Opel Ampera.

The Brownstown battery assembly plant, located around 30 miles south of the Detroit-Hamtramck site, produces the batteries for the Volt, Ampera and ELR. Johnson remarked that the Brownstown site is the first US high-volume site for automotive lithium-ion battery technologies.

GM is readying for the next-gen Volt as sales of the current model slow down. In the first quarter of 2014, GM only sold 3,606 Voltsin the US for a drop of 15 percent.

The new 2016 Chevrolet Volt owes pretty much of its higher levels of all-electric driving range, efficiency and acceleration to the all-new, second-generation Voltec extended range electric vehicle (EREV) propulsion system that was engineered using the driving behaviors of first-gen Volt drivers.

Andrew Farah, vehicle chief engineer, disclosed that more than 80 percent of the trips made by Volt owners were driven sans any drop of gasoline, with these customers loving the experience brought by electric driving. By making that driving experience as the focus of development of the new Voltec system, Chevrolet was able to improve its range while making the Volt more fun to drive, he quipped.

Farah said that after setting a precedent with the first-gen Voltec propulsion system, the second-gen system – including the electric drive unit, battery, range-extending engine and power electronics -- would set the EV technology bar higher.

The next generation of the Volt makes use of reengineered battery technology that employs an 18.4-kWh battery system with revised cell chemistry developed along with LG Chem. The revised chemistry has allowed the battery system to decrease the number of needed cells – from 288 to 192 – while increasing the overall system storage capacity. The cells are now positioned lower in the pack – which weighs 21 pounds (9.8 kg) lighter than in the previous system -- to further lower the car’s center of gravity.

Moreover, the two-motor drive unit of the next-generation Volt now offers higher degrees of performance and efficiency with lower levels of noise and vibration. The drive unit operates up to 12 percent more efficiently and weighs 100 pounds (45 kg) less than the current system. Both of the motors now run in more driving situations, whether in EV or extended-range modes.

By employing both motors, the Volt is able to deliver remarkable improvements in electric acceleration. For instance, the Volt could now sprint from zero to 30 mph in 2.6 seconds (19 percent hike) and from nil to 60 mph in 8.4 seconds (7 percent improvement). These Voltec electric motors are designed to use less rare earth materials, with one using no rare earth-type magnets.

Press Release

GM Invests $449 Million for Next Generation Electrification

DETROIT – In preparation for the next generation of electric vehicles and advanced battery technologies, General Motors will invest $449 million to upgrade manufacturing processes at Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly and Brownstown Battery Assembly plants.

"General Motors is committed to building award-winning products and developing technologies in America, which helps to grow our economy from a resurgent auto industry," said Gerald Johnson, GM North America Manufacturing vice president. "These investments will help the next-generation Chevrolet Volt build on its position as the leader in electrified propulsion."

The investment, announced at the Automotive Press Association, is the largest to date at both facilities and includes $384 million at Detroit-Hamtramck for new Body Shop tooling, equipment, and additional plant upgrades to build the next generation Chevrolet Volt and two future products. This brings GM's total investment at Detroit-Hamtramck to more than $1 billion over the last five years.

GM's $65 million investment at its Brownstown Battery Assembly will support the next generation of lithium-ion battery production and future battery systems.

"Michigan is poised for even greater global leadership in automotive innovation," Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder said. "This significant investment by GM will harness the power of our state's unparalleled assets, such as its talent, world-class universities, and research and development capabilities.

"While challenges remain throughout the auto industry, this announcement shows that it is looking to the future, and the resulting technological advancements will strengthen our economy and benefit our environment," Snyder said. "This is great news for Detroit, the region and all of Michigan."

Since 2009, GM has announced more than $5.4 billion in U.S. facility investment for vehicle technologies that benefit customers. This includes more than $2.8 billion invested in Michigan-based facilities alone.

The Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant is the world's only automotive plant that mass-produces extended-range electric vehicles – including the Volt, Cadillac ELR and Opel Ampera – for markets in 33 countries. Detroit-Hamtramck also builds the Chevrolet Malibu and Impala sedans and is home to a 264,000-square-foot photovoltaic solar array that can generate up to 516 kilowatts of electricity, or enough to charge 150 electric vehicles per day.

"This is a significant investment by General Motors and it helps to further position Detroit as a leader in the innovative technologies of tomorrow," said Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan. "We anticipate that the upgrading of the Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly Plant and the production of GM's next-generation electric vehicles will create well-paying jobs for Detroiters. As we continue to bring real change to our city, we need partners like GM who are committed to investing in our future."

Brownstown Battery Assembly's 479,000-square-foot, landfill-free facility south of Detroit produces the lithium-ion battery packs for GM's extended-range electric vehicles. It started mass production in October 2010 and is the first high-volume manufacturing site in the U.S. operated by a major automaker for automotive lithium-ion battery production. The site was made possible with the help of American Recovery and Reinvestment Act funding through the U.S. Department of Energy.

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