Sales of the Chevy Volt extended range electric vehicle [EREV] has been slow, but steady, meaning that support companies like battery suppliers aren’t as productive as they could be.
True, the market for electric vehicles as a whole hasn’t been enough to justify handshakes and champagne. Much to the contrary, aside from dashing success Tesla Motors, a number of other electric vehicle [EV] and battery manufacturers have flailed miserably. The market will come, but the initial hubris has led to some spectacular failures.
Speaking of battery companies, recall A123 Systems [bought out], which was slated to provide advanced rechargeable battery technology for both Fisker Automotive [facing bankruptcy] as well as General Motors for the Chevy Spark EV. Another battery manufacturer, LG Chem, runs some of the biggest battery factories in the world and its plant in Michigan has been sitting idle, much to the dismay of the Department of Energy [DoE].
The factory received about $150 million in DoE money to help defray the costs of construction and tooling, but the demand for Chevy Volt batteries hasn’t been as high as expected. Instead of laying off workers, LG has continued to pay them to stick around until production can resume. A DoE, after a February audit, didn’t look kindly on this and ordered LG Chem to repay some $842,000 in funds that went to the idle workforce.
Michigan Representative Bill Huizenga calls the whole thing “a flawed program.” LG Chem responded that “taxpayer money has not been wasted, because when the market demand justifies production, the facility will be utilized.” To that end, LG Chem plans to restart production in July and should be back to producing batteries for the Chevy Volt by the end of the summer.