A delegation of Michigan lawmakers are appealing to newly seated President Barack Obama for an additional $25 billion in loans to help the domestic auto industry retool manufacturing plants to produce advanced technology vehicles.
The letter from the 15 lawmakers also asks for $1 billion in grants to jump-start the development of a battery manufacturing base, as well as $3.3 billion in loan guarantees to support the manufacturing of advanced batteries and battery systems.
The letter hits Obama’s desk today, just three days after his inauguration and as lawmakers in the House of Representatives debate his $825 billion economic stimulus bill, which itself contains $2 billion for battery research.
“Nearly all batteries for hybrid-electric vehicles are made in Pacific Rim countries,” the lawmakers say in the letter. “We are coming to the game late and must build capability quickly to keep up.
“Funding for electric-transportation technologies will be essential to achieving President Obama’s goal of placing 1 million plug-in hybrid vehicles on the road by 2015 and ensure that these vehicles are built here in America.”
Each of the Detroit Three currently are working on electric cars relying on advanced battery technology for production in the 2010 timetable.
However,Corp. is the first U.S.-based auto maker to announce significant investment in a manufacturing operation for the technology, saying at last week’s North American International Auto Show it will build a battery-pack assembly plant in Michigan.
GM also plans a 31,000-sq.-ft. (3,251-sq.-m) battery research lab and a new degree program in battery technology with the University of Michigan.
Congress approved $25 billion in advanced technology loans as part of last year’s energy bill raising the corporate average fuel economy rule. Auto makers have applied but not received any of that money.
The Michigan lawmakers also are asking that Obama’s stimulus plans take into consideration unemployment rates when allocating funds to states.
“Because of our strong manufacturing base, we were among the first states to feel the pain of this recession and have been hit particularly hard,” the Michigan delegation says. “We feel it is critically important that additional funding be directed to those states that need it the most – those with the highest unemployment rates.”