GM Adds 50,000 Sq Feet To Battery Lab; Facilitiy Tripled in Size Over Last 4 Years (w/video)

4 years ago by Jay Cole 23

GM's Warren, Michigan Battery Facility Continues To Expand

GM’s Warren, Michigan Battery Facility Continues To Expand

General Motors announced today that it has added 50,000 more square feet to its “Global Battery Systems Laboratory” in Warren, Michigan this year, bringing the total footage to over 85,000 feet.

Look Busy Fellas We Are Going To Take A Picture!

Look Busy Fellas We Are Going To Take A Picture!

Since the facility opened in 2009, and the Chevy Volt came to market shortly thereafter, it has more than tripled in size.

The lab is responsible for testing and validating battery cells and packs for all of GM’s electric vehicles now and in the future. To date it has done work on the Chevrolet Volt, Cadillac ELR, Chevrolet Spark EV and also on General Motors’s eAssist light electrification system.

According to the company, the current expansion increased the number of possible pack-level test channels from 64 to 112 and cell-level test channels from 96 to 120.

“In the past four years, the competitive landscape in the electrification space has grown exponentially. This has required us to raise our game and draw a new line in the sand,” said Doug Parks, GM vice president, global product programs. “To maintain our battery leadership, this additional real estate is filled with new capability that will help us improve speed to market for our next generation of battery systems and help us improve the value equation to our customers around the world.”

GM press release follows:

The additional capabilities of the lab expansion include:

  • dedicated equipment for future vehicle battery system development such as charger development and testing, cord set testing and competitive benchmarking;
  • building prototype battery packs for vehicle development programs; and,
  • the ability to act as the hub for validation and testing of all battery systems designed for use in future GM vehicles around the world.
Lab Technician And Chevy Volt Battery Pack

Lab Technician And Chevy Volt Battery Pack

The lab will also play a critical role in assuring GM’s current generation of electric vehicles maintain their battery leadership position. Teams will validate and test updates to existing chemistries and system designs to make the most of performance and reduce cost. For example, updates were made to the battery system in 2013 Chevrolet Volt that added three miles of EV range.

“GM is committed to vehicle electrification and our products in this area must continue to excite customers. A critical part of this plan is to deliver safe, reliable and affordable energy storage systems,” said Larry Nitz, GM’s executive director of global electrification engineering. “The new capabilities of this lab will enhance our engineers’ ability to design, develop, process and validate class-leading products to meet the needs of our growing customer base.”

In addition to the lab in Michigan, GM also operates battery labs in Shanghai, China, and Mainz-Kastel, Germany, which are tasked with testing and validation of battery cells, packs, and advanced battery system development. Teams at the China, Germany and Michigan labs work collectively to test battery systems around the clock to reduce validation time.

Chevy Volt Battery Pack About To Take A Ride

Chevy Volt Battery Pack About To Take A Ride

Facts: Global Battery Systems Battery Lab

Alternative Energy Center, GM Technical Center, Warren, Mich.

History:

  • Lab completed: May 2009
  • Expansion completed: July 2013

Size:

Expansion total floor space: 50,000 sq.-ft.

Lab total floor space: 85,000 sq.-ft.

  • 16,500 sq. ft. – Pack testing, Support
  • 18,500 sq. ft. – Cell / Module testing, Vibration #1, Safety and Abuse #1, Support
  • 30,000 sq. ft. – Safety and Abuse #2, Manufacturing Support, Pack Build, Test, Storage
  • 20,000 sq. ft. – Software / Dev. Test, Vibration #2, Modal test, Software / Dev. Support
Validation Testing Of Volt Battery Cells Happens In Warren, MI

Validation Testing Of Volt Battery Cells Happens In Warren, MI

Benefits:

  • Increased pack testing
  • New cell and module testing
  • Additional capabilities
    • New Vibration testing area with added Modal testing capability
    • Charger testing
    • Immersion testing (pack seals)
    • Hardware in the Loop / Software in the Loop testing and development
    • Manufacturing Engineering area for support of assembly plants (equipment partially funded by the U.S. Department of Energy)

Enhanced capability

  • Welding of battery systems: Development of new ultrasonic and laser weld capabilities.
  • Battery system mock-up capabilities: Tooling to hand-build modules, sections and validate parts.
  • Prototype pack build area

 

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23 responses to "GM Adds 50,000 Sq Feet To Battery Lab; Facilitiy Tripled in Size Over Last 4 Years (w/video)"

  1. Mark H says:

    Tesla super chargers, Nissan-Renault global factories, GM 85,000 sq ft battery facility? Looks like we have a genuine EV industry!

  2. Bill Howland says:

    OH man Jay I can have a lotta fun with this one.

    Increased charger testing? I thought GM had standardized on 3.3 kw, but then someone got the idea to go with that Frankenplug thing so now they have a lot more stuff to fool with!! Guess the charger guys got bored that there was nothing to do.

    Cord Testing? You mean when they went from version 2 to version 3 of the Chevy Volt’s cord, and then made the attachment plug a few inches shorter so that if you arrange your garage per the Model in the owner’s manual, the new version 3 charging cord they gave you wont fit!! ( I spent the day at the dealership, demanding my v2 back which they had already sawed up, and 11 calls to Detroit were made). I obviously directly changed Version 4 for this reason since on v4 the cord is PLENTY long enough.

    1. Jay Cole says:

      You know I actually had the same couple thoughts as yourself when GM sent the press release. We decided it best to just report it ‘straight-forward’ like, glad you picked up on some of the developments in the lab, (=

  3. Rich says:

    GM Ventures invested in Envia Systems which touts 400Wh/kg. It’s really great news if the additional testing capacity is for Envia technology. What do you think, GM EVs with 300 mile range for 2016 models (available Aug. 2015)?
    Envia website: http://enviasystems.com/

    1. Jay Cole says:

      Not specifically related to your Envia point, but in the same vein. I think there is a real disconnect with news of higher Wh/kg stories and what people and OEMs actually want.

      Not many are actually calling to cut down the displacement/weight of the packs in their recent EV purchases – “man I wish my Volt didn’t weigh 3,790 lbs, if only it had 400 Wh/kg batteries so it weighed 3,500lbs”. Most are almost universally calling for less $ per Wh, which is something quite different.

      So while 400 Wh/kg would still be a really great advancement for super high performance EVs concerned about weight, or when trying to get that extra seat and/or more trunk room in place when the OEM didn’t build an EV on a purpose built platform from the start (or in other applications)…it is not really an issue to put 40-60 kWh inside even a compact car without it interfering too much if it is built from the ground up.

      I think a breakthrough of $100Wh at the same old 140 kW/kg level would be one of the most significant events in the history of the automobile.

      1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

        Do you want to see more electric motorcycles? You need volumetric energy density and gravimetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want small cars with long range? You need volumetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want to more long-range cars? You need volumetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want even longer-range cars? You need volumetric energy density and gravimetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want BEV pick-ups? You want volumetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want the electric cars to be more efficient? You want gravimetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want people not to opt out of compact mid-range PHEVs like the Volt for reasons of utility? You need volumetric energy density improvements.
        Do you want the battery and cell prices to keep falling? You want volumetric energy density improvements.

        Yes, $100/kWh should mean 60kWh FTW, but volumetric and gravimetric energy density are not minor issues.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          All fair points, I didn’t mean to disparage 400 kW/kg, that would be a great feat if it was in production – for all of the reasons you mentioned. I just mean battery power density advancement stories are really high profile, while ‘battery costs come down’ stories are not…and they probably should be.

          The achievement of 400 wH at $600-$800/kg (which is likely what we are talking about with Envia) would be fantastic, but still not be hugely significant to the overall market adoption of more EVs, at least not as compared to say, seeing the existing 140 wH/kg technology get streamlined to half the price it is today, or even the next gen in the pipeline at around 230 wH/kg.

          Cost is still the number 1 barrier to entry by a long shot at this point…and $100 wH/kg means 5 seat, $19,000, 200+ mile EVs. Personally, I’d really like to see the breakthrough in cost ahead of performance.

          1. Bret says:

            Lower cost per KWh and higher energy density are basically the same goal. Having fewer cells per KWh reduces cost and weight and improves efficiency. Envia touts the low cost every bit as much as the higher density on their website.

            Now, I just wish Envia Systems would let everyone know when the technology will be ready. They haven’t updated the press releases on their website since February of 2012, which makes me very uneasy.

            1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

              Actually, there can be different shifts in volumetric and gravimetric energy densities. Panasonic’s latest silicon 18650s have higher volumetric density but at the cost of lower gravimetric density, so unless packaging can make up the difference the weight would increase.

              And I think your view is a bit simplistic. Tesla uses more cells than competitors but has low costs not just because of volume but also because of high yield. There’s a continual balancing act in cell manufacturing between cost, energy density, power density and durability.

      2. Anthony says:

        I agree that if you could sell a Leaf for the same price or slightly cheaper than a similarly sized and equipped car without subsidy, then it starts to scale out (more manufacturing, more units sold). Then when that foundation is built you scale up (the cars and batteries get better).

        That said, I’m inclined to think the two go hand in hand. As you build better batteries (200, 250, 300, 400 Wh/kg) the equipment and manufacturing techniques to make the old 150Wh/kg batteries becomes old hat. As the new batteries come to market priced at $400/kWh or less, it pushes down the price of the existing batteries (assuming the 150Wh/kg battery is truly inferior). If you want to monetize this old equipment, you keep making batteries and just sell them for less and eventually marginal cost = price; as long as batteries today don’t have a marginal cost above $100/kWh, then all we need are more advanced batteries to come out and push battery costs down.

      3. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

        “Not many are actually calling to cut down the displacement/weight of the packs in their recent EV purchases – “man I wish my Volt didn’t weigh 3,790 lbs, if only it had 400 Wh/kg batteries so it weighed 3,500lbs”. Most are almost universally calling for less $ per Wh, which is something quite different.”

        Not necessarily. Improvements in density can remove cost by removing materials. So, at 400Wh/kg costing like 1.5x more than 150Wh/kg, you can either increase overall range at the same weight or reduce weight and materials cost at the same power.

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Just as an aside, I have to say it is great to be in this business and have these little side debates over the minutiae of things as it relates to EVs. That is all, (=

          It seems like everything is win-win right now, which is so much better than even 4-5 years ago.

      4. vdiv says:

        This being InsideEVs, not just insideEVcars, one should note that improving the capacity density of batteries will make a huge difference in creating practical electric airplanes.

        When will Musk tackle that? Call the new company SpaceTesla or something and take off! 😉

        1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

          He’s already mentioned that he was disappointed that Concorde has not been replaced and believes it would be possible to build a Supersonic electric airliner because it could fly much higher than a jet.

          Although not without some teething issues, lithium batteries already contribute to the efficiency of the Boeing Dreamliner.

        2. Dr. Kenneth Noisewater says:

          Methinks electrified airplanes would do better by burning aluminum if/when Phinergy-style Al-air batteries can power a scramjet 🙂

  4. MDEV says:

    All we are seen is because of TESLA. They already changed history.

  5. Bloggin says:

    Nice Job GM!

    It looks like GM and Ford are serious about leading in the electrified vehicle market.

    Ford announced a similar expansion in July.

    “Expanding for the future
    This year, Ford also will expand its electrification engineering team by nearly 50 percent, growing to 500 salaried employees. Further, the company is investing an additional $50 million in electrified product development and testing centers in Dearborn.

    Ford will double electrification battery-testing capabilities by the end of the year – to a total of 160 individual battery-test cells – helping to speed hybrid and electric vehicle development by as much as 25 percent.”

  6. kdawg says:

    I see a lot of testing… but not much in regards to application. Maybe GM (and others) are holding their cards tight, but sure would be nice to know progress is being made (that we can buy).

    *feeling impatient atm*

    1. ItsNotAboutTheMoney says:

      I think they’re ramping up because they believe they’re close enough. It seems the global industry is ramping up and I hope and think that Tesla has proven the market will be there as soon as the price is right for the car. Since it’s all so dependent on the battery, they know that they have to invest and testing is so crucial because getting the battery wrong would be very expensive.

  7. MrEnergyCzar says:

    No images of the next Gen Volt battery yet….

    MrEnergyCzar

  8. Anthony says:

    From a Yahoo! Finance article (http://finance.yahoo.com/news/gm-working-200-mile-electric-183610119.html) covering this expansion…

    “General Motors is working on one that can go 200 miles per charge at a cost of about $30,000, a top company executive said.”

    and

    “The 200-mile car won’t be the next-generation Volt. Speaking at a Monday event to show off GM’s expanded battery laboratory at its technical center in Warren, a suburb north of Detroit, Parks said that GM engineers are now working on a new Volt, which will go a little father on electricity than the current model and cost a little less. He wouldn’t say when it will arrive in showrooms or how much it will cost.”

    Personally I don’t buy into the “little” part of that sentence – I think those are there to keep people from deciding to wait instead of just buy Volts now. Likewise, the lack of timetable for both cars is all about making enough uncertainty that people wont hold out for whats next instead of buying now.

    I’m expecting the gen 2 Volt to sell for $30,000 (no subsidy) and go about 40-45 miles on EV power, and get much better fuel economy (40-45 MPG) in range-extended mode. But I don’t think it’ll land until early 2017. I think thats about the same time this EV will hit too – late 2016 or early 2017.

    1. Schmeltz says:

      I saw that article too Anthony. It appears GM wants to make it known that they are simultaneously working on a 200 mile All Electric on the side, as well as the next gen. Volt. And the fact that they are expanding the battery lab and research aspect all point to the positive IMO.

  9. Martin T says:

    Should expect interesting things from GM and they do great research.
    (Boeing has a heck of lot to learn from GM after their Dreamliner fubar)
    Yes we finally have Car companies seriously eager on the EV research side for commercialisation.

    I even managed to smile when Renault / Nissan Goshen rightly paid out on VW (Last year VW said EV were for golf carts and now they aim to be #1 in EV WTF ? LOL!)

    Appears so far Tesla, GM, Renault / Nissan are leaving VW in the EV dust and rightly So !

    Great to see GM expanding their lab – they do excellent work there!