Special Coverage

Management Briefing Seminars

TRAVERSE CITY, MI – Research toward developing a viable lithium-ion battery system for traditional hybrid-electric vehicles and upcoming plug-in electric vehicles (PHEVs) is moving ahead rapidly, but whether they will be produced in the U.S. remains unclear.

Don Walkowicz, executive director of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research LLC (USCAR) tells Ward’s at the Management Briefing Seminars here that although his group is underwriting Li-ion research in collaboration with the Department of Energy, a strategy to make the batteries and related systems in the U.S. has yet to jell.

“We’ve been successful in creating the technology, but the development now needs a model, a policy, for commercialization in this country,” he says.

USCAR is an umbrella organization for collaborative research by General Motors Corp., Ford Motor Co. and Chrysler LLC. Its U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium facilitates Li-ion research.

Several companies are developing Li-ion battery systems in the U.S., including Compact Power Inc., a subsidiary of South Korea’s LG Chem; and A123 Systems, a U.S. company based near Boston.

Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions (JCS) of Milwaukee, a unit of Johnson Controls Inc., recently won an $8.2 million, 2-year USABC/DOE contract to develop a Li-ion battery cell, module and battery pack for PHEVs.

In a speech earlier this week at the conference, JCS CEO MaryAnn Wright points out that the government, industry and academia in Japan are collaborating to develop an electric vehicle – and battery – infrastructure, including manufacturing.

“We need to bring skilled jobs back to this country,” she says, a clear reference to the need for a policy that would pave the way for developing stateside capability for EV system manufacturing capability.