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GM opens $25 million battery lab at Warren, MI tech center

General Motors has opened what is said to be the largest automotive battery lab in the U.S. The $25-million, 33,000-square-foot Global Battery Systems Lab at GM’s Warren Technical Center near Detroit will develop and test the drive trains for Chevrolet Volt and other hybrid, battery-electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, according to a report in Wired magazine.

The Global Battery Systems Lab is the primary facility in GM’s battery program, which includes labs in Mainz-Kastel, Germany and Honeoye Falls, New York. The research facility in New York, located near Rochester, previously focused on hydrogen-powered vehicles.

General Motors is working with LG Chem on the battery that will provide the Volt with an all-electric range of 40 miles, and it has a joint deal with Compact Power and LG Chem to continue developing the technology. The largest U.S. automaker also has developed with the University of Michigan a battery-specific engineering curriculum and a battery lab in Ann Arbor, MI.

Coming just a week after General Motors filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection—the largest such filing in U.S. history—the opening of the battery lab is viewed as the first step in fulfilling the auto giant’s commitment to emerge from bankruptcy as a greener company that is capable of producing a fleet of fuel-efficient vehicles.

Conversely, GM also unburdened itself of perhaps the greatest symbol of its gas-guzzling past when it reached an agreement last week to sell its Hummer brand to a Chinese buyer.

According to the report in Wired, the Global Battery Systems Lab is four times larger than the facility in which engineers had been working on the lithium-ion battery pack used in the Volt. It employs more than 1,000 engineers. The operation features 160 test channels and 42 thermal chambers that subject batteries to real-world driving conditions and temperature variations. It also has 32 battery cyclers used to deplete and charge the packs repeatedly.

General Motors is planning to begin producing the Volt at its Detroit-Hamtramck Assembly plant next year.

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