Lots of good news coming out of Michigan this week in the area of electric vehicle manufacture.
First, today marks the first day of production for GM’s lithium-ion battery pack at its Brownstown Pack Assembly Plant.
“This is an important milestone for GM — and a critical step in bringing the Chevrolet Volt to market,” GM CEO and Chairman Ed Whitacre said in a statement.
The battery pack, which is made up of more than 200 battery cells, will be used in the Chevrolet Volt electric car, slated to hit showrooms late this year.
And that’s not all.
The event drew U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu, Gov. Jennifer Granholm and GM Chairman and CEO Ed Whitacre and a host of federal, state and local politicians who heralded the battery’s production as a symbolic step toward remaking Michigan’s economy and the nation’s manufacturing sector.
Brownstown Township is a Downriver community just south of downtown Detroit. As bad as things are across our state, the southeastern Metro Detroit area has been the hardest hit so this plant is a godsend to many folks down there.
And that’s not the only positive step we’re seeing. On January 11th, the North American International Auto Show opens. Historically, this whiz-bang, super-flashy event focused heavily on the big trucks, muscle cars and other gas-swilling behemoths that Americans seem to love so much.
But this year there’s a new addition: Electric Avenue.
The North American International Auto Show has announced the debut of Electric Avenue, a 37,000-square-foot feature on the main floor of the 2010 show that will showcase electric vehicles and technology of both traditional automakers and innovative entrepreneurs. The exhibit area will feature nearly 20 vehicles [partial list HERE.] as well as symposiums and special events on the adjacent NAIAS stage.
While this may not seem like such a big deal to many of you, for anyone that has actually attended the Detroit Auto Show, this is a significant step forward toward the mainstream acceptance of electric vehicles. It’s a difficult path, particularly with gas prices stabilizing at a reasonable price.
Here’s Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of global product development:
All of that becomes very, very difficult to sell in a world of cheap gasoline,” says Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of global product development. “We cannot have the world’s most fuel-efficient vehicle park and … the world’s cheapest gasoline.”
Changing people’s perceptions (along with making the vehicles cost-competitive) is going to be key in their long-term success.
So GM will have vehicles there. So will Toyota and Honda and Chrysler and Ford. Speaking of Ford, this week they made a big announcement about their future in electric vehicle production:
Ford on Sunday detailed a multi-prong electric car strategy, saying it will have an all-electric commercial van by 2010, an all-electric passenger car by 2011, and plug-in hybrid vehicles in 2012.
Ford has got it going on. Hell, they even “stole the show” at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. And their stuff is pretty danged cool:
At a time when the most tired of tired Detroit mantras — “they don’t build what anyone wants to buy” — is akin to holy writ, when magazine covers herald the “Extinction of the car giants,” when books are titled “The End of Detroit,” Ford Motor Co. is proving once again just how wrong conventional wisdom can be.
For the hottest thing at this week’s Consumer Electronics Show is the Blue Oval’s “MyFord Touch” and its latest version of Sync. The package combines the infotainment system with simplified computer touch screens that allow drivers to manage everything from climate control and iPod selections to hearing text messages and the latest headlines.
Cool? You have no idea. Easy? Easier than it’s ever been. MyTouch will be standard equipment on selected models for the 2011 model year and will roll out in successive years — which suggests just how aggressively Ford is pressing an advantage it staked with the first Sync systems it unveiled before the global auto market imploded.
So, despite our state’s woeful economy, strikingly high unemployment rate, rat tangle of a Congress and charlie fox of gubernatorial race, Michigan is seeing some hopeful signs. And, despite all the negativity toward her, much of this can be traced back to our progressive governor, Jennifer Granholm. She’s been pushing for years to convert our economy over to one that pushes the green technology envelope. Because she’s term-limited and will be leaving while Michigan still is still struggling, she probably won’t receive much of the deserved credit. But she planted seeds in the past few years that will yield a bountiful harvest.
If the Republicans don’t screw it up ;)
I’m just sayin’…