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GM’s Brownstown Battery Assembly expands; building new battery system for 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV

General Motors Brownstown Battery Assembly Plant worker Tina Oaks attaches wiring harnesses on a Spark EV battery pack. Click to enlarge.

General Motors will bring all its electric vehicle battery pack building capabilities in-house with production of battery systems for the 2015 Chevrolet Spark EV at its expanded battery assembly plant in Brownstown, Mich.

A newly designed battery system features an overall storage capacity of 19 kWh and uses 192 lithium ion cells. The cells are produced at LG Chem’s plant in Holland, Mich. The battery system weight of 474 lbs (215 kg)—86 pounds (39 kg) lighter than the system in the 2014 Spark EV. The Spark EV battery is built on a dedicated production line at Brownstown, which also manufactures complete battery packs for the Chevrolet Volt, Opel Ampera and Cadillac ELR.

Using our in-house engineering and manufacturing expertise enabled us to deliver a battery system that is more efficient and lighter than the 2014 Spark EV without sacrificing range. Our successful working relationship with LG Chem has allowed us to deliver a new battery system for the Spark EV that helps us to better leverage our economies of scale.

—Larry Nitz, executive director of GM global transmission and electrification engineering

Battery module for 2015 Spark EV battery pack. Click to enlarge.

Changes in battery design will not affect the Spark’s MPGe, or gasoline equivalent, performance compared to the 2014 model. Range will remain at an EPA-rated 82 miles (132 km) and MPGe will remain at 119 (equivalent to 2.0 l/100 km).

Priced at $19,995 with full federal incentives, Spark EV is currently on sale in California and Oregon. The 2015 Spark EV features technology including Siri Eyes Free, 4G LTE and DC Fast Charging.

Brownstown Battery Assembly’s 479,000-square-foot, landfill-free facility south of Detroit also 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 US 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 US Department of Energy.



At a low 88 Wh/Kg these batteries are not much to write about?


The best thing you can say about GM is that they comply.

Account Deleted

Harvey do the Wh/kg calculation for any of the short-range BEVs on the market today and they have less than 100 Wh/kg at the pack level. This is the industry state-of-the-art regardless of what you think. Tesla is the only long-range BEV so they can use another battery chemistry (with less cycle life but better energy density) that can do nearly 200 Wh/kg at the pack level. And regardless of what you think these numbers are not going to improve fast. Expect 6% improvement every 5 years or so (a typical development cycle for a battery). And forget about disruptive battery technology. It happens so seldom that it is not worth pinning any hopes on.

Nor will there be any large price reductions for EVs or PHEVs. For the next 10 years at least BEVs and PHEVs will be limited to the upper middle class and the wealthy. Gassers will be for poor people and ordinary middle class. I think it will take 30 years of continuous BEV development before the price of a 200 miles BEV drop to 24,000 USD and therefore can compete with that of an equally large 18,000 USD gasser. Today's Leaf is a 29,000 USD BEV with a 24kWh battery. You need one with 72 kWh priced at 24,000 USD and that might first be possible in 2044.

Account Deleted

Tried to get a better estimate of Tesla's Wh/kg at the pack level. Some old sources say it weights 544 kg others that it is 600 kg. The weight has probably gone up with 30 kg after the titanium shield was attached for better fire protection. So between 574 and 630 kg for the 85kWh Tesla model S battery that is respectively 148 Wh/kg and 135 Wh/kg. This is not nearly 200 Wh/kg as I wrongly said above. But it is still some 60% better than the 90 Wh/kg that are state-of-the-art for short-range BEVs.


@ Henrik.

Sooner or latter we will realize the futility of driving around in 2-ton or 3-ton ICEV monsters as we did about 4-ton and 4+ton ICEV monsters a few years ago.

In the near future, many disruptive technologies will bring about permanent changes to the automobiles, trucks and buses industry such as:

1. the extensive use of much lighter more durable materials to reduce vehicle weight.

2. lighter higher performance electrical components including improved ultra light in-wheel e-motors.

3. major advancement to autonomous driving to reduce energy consumption and accidents.

4. improved lower cost quicker charge batteries.

5. improved wireless quick battery chargers.

6. improved lower cost FCs.

7. serious competition between extended range BEVs and FCEVs.

8. Extended quick e-chargers and H2 stations networks.

The timeframe for most of the above to materialize of a massive scale will probably be between 2020 and 2040. After that, most heavy old fashion ICEVs will become collection items.


@ Henrik

You said:

"Expect 6% improvement every 5 years or so (a typical development cycle for a battery). And forget about disruptive battery technology. It happens so seldom that it is not worth pinning any hopes on."

This flies in the face of battery development history. I guess if you isolate one performance criteria and focus on it for a cherry-picked length of time, yes, your statement might be correct. However, cost, energy denisty, power density, cycle life and a whole host of other parameters are constantly improving and taken together, your 1.2% annual improvement claim goes counter to everything the battery industry has accomplished in the past few decades. This is just like the EIA foolishly claiming that solar PV installations are going to magically stop for 20 years for no good reason.

"Nor will there be any large price reductions for EVs or PHEVs. For the next 10 years at least BEVs and PHEVs will be limited to the upper middle class and the wealthy."

Well, since you can get a LEAF in the low $20ks, I hardly call that an upper middle class price point. And this is AFTER a $5000 reduction in price that totally disproves your claim that the price cannot come down on these vehicles. You do understand that the more LEAFs Nissan makes, the lower their sunk cost will be per vehicle, right? (R&D, factory setup & tooling, etc.) If you think there is ZERO learning curve left for the industry to move down after selling electric vehicles for less than 4 years, you are woefully mistaken.

And your claim that you need 72kWh to go 200 miles is also dubious. The Model S goes 244 miles with 60kWh and is a much larger, less aerodynamic vehicle than the LEAF:

You'd only need about 50 kWh to have a 200 mile range in a Model S, so lower your inflated estimates by around 50%! But the LEAF, being a smaller car to begin with, might need a few less kWh in battery capacity anyway, and that's assuming that there are NO advances in battery technology by 2044, which is a very risky bet to make. Sorry, but your projections are extremely inaccurate.

Account Deleted

@Sault the EPA rating of the 60kWh Model S is 208 miles, not 244. If the weather is cold or you drive the car speedily you get significantly less (up to 40% less). An older battery will also not have 60kWh available any more. This is why you need 72 kWh to do 200 miles in the real world also in the winter or during a hot summer day with the AC on. Several Tesla 60kWh buyers have subsequently upgraded to 85kwh because the 60kwh is not quite enough to quit range anxiety. The subsidies you talk about are keeping much of the still niche EV, PHEV alive. The subsidies will end when the EV market grow into something significant because the authorities cannot afford it when the market become significant. I think Norway will be the exception here. Their government has enough money to keep subsidizing EVs until they are the only cars that are sold. Also for BEVs to go mainstream you need a much larger range of vehicle types including SUVs and pickups. They are large, heavy and less aerodynamic and need even larger batteries to do 200 miles real world range. I would think that 105 kWh are needed here.

Do a quick survey among the EV and PHEV buyers today around the globe and you will find they are upper middle class, wealthy or an insignificant niche of people with extremely strong feelings about the environment or the technical marvels of EVs. Start by making EVs and PHEVs for these people and they will drive up production volumes that subsequently will lower production cost so that more affordable EVs and PHEVs can be made to reach more people and so on until 2044 where a 200 miles 72kwh BEV will cost you about 24,000 USD and be comparable to a 18,000 USD gasser.

Roger Pham

A 100-mi BEV if charged twice daily will become a 200-mi BEV. A $35, 000 BEV is the cost-equivalent of a $15, 000-ICEV after 160, 000 miles. The Volt now can be had for $27, 500 usd and is equivalent in cost to a $10, 000-ICEV. The Volt has unlimited range.

Roger Pham

Clarification of above: A $35,000-BEV will cost $27,500 after $7,500 Fed incentive. The $20,000-savings in fuel, maintenance and repair costs at 160,000 miles will make this BEV the cost equivalence of a $7,500-ICEV. If the Fed BEV incentive is not figured in, this BEV is cost equivalent to a $15,000 ICEV when figured all the operational cost savings at 160,000 miles. We do not need to wait til 2044 to have a BEV or PHEV that will be cost-competitive with ICEV. Plugged-in EV are already more than cost competitive with ICEV today!


@ Henrik,

The EPA wrongly counts charging losses against plug-in vehicles in its range estimations. In addition, the LEAF's efficiency / range improvements for the 2014MY were nearly wiped out because Nissan also adopted an 80% max charge option to help extend battery life should LEAF owners prefer to use it. You must know that the EPA systematically gouges about 10% of the range and efficiency of plug-in vehicles for no good reason.

So even if the LEAF is doing 85 miles with 24kWh right now, what makes you think you'll need 3x as much battery capacity in 30 years to only go about 2x the distance? Do you think there will be ZERO efficiency / performance improvements in vehicles and batteries over that time? This is quite a leap in logic.

Plus, as Roger Pham touched on, the total cost of ownership of an EV is MUCH lower than a gas car. An EV does not need oil changes, fuel and air filter replacements, transmission flushes, exhaust maintenance, and smog testing just to name a few. Electric "fuel" is also costs a fraction of the price of petroleum fuels. Finally, an EV has a lot less moving parts and systems prone to wear and tear or failure like a gas car does, so huge random repair bills are a lot less likely with an EV. Finally, a battery pack's capacity is strongly influenced by the weakest cells in a pack. If you just pull out these weak cells and replace them, you can extend the useful live of an EV battery pack at a fraction of the cost of buying an entirely new pack. And even when the pack is no good for vehicle applications, power companies will be keen on buying them to supply grid storage / stabilization, helping the bottom lines of EV owners even more.

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