Automotive battery developer A123 Systems opened its Livonia, Michigan plant and was hailed by President Obama, who has been an ardent supporter of the company's dual goals of delivering green technology and providing badly-needed jobs in a depressed area.
The 291,000-square-foot factory is expected to expand A123's manufacturing capacity by up to 600-megawatt hours of annual production and provide jobs for hundreds. The company was funded in part by a $249 million U.S. Department of Energy grant under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.
"Thanks to the Recovery Act, you guys are the first American factory to start high-volume production of advanced vehicle batteries," the President said in a call Monday to A123 executives and Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm. "This is about the birth of an entire new industry in America -- an industry that's going to be central to the next generation of cars. And it's going to allow us to start exporting those cars, making them comfortable, convenient and affordable."
A123 has already hired 250 workers for the plant. The company expects to eventually employ 3,000 at the facility. The modern plant has been designed to accommodate the complete production process of the firm's prismatic cells and systems, beginning with R&D. Other pieces of the process range from manufacturing of components and cell fabrication to mobile fabrication and final assembly of complete battery packs.
"Bringing this factory on line in just over a year is a testament to our technology innovation and strategic plan to ramp up manufacturing, but it also speaks to the maturity of the market," said David Vieau, A123 Systems president and CEO, in a statement. "Without significant customer demand for our products today, a capacity expansion of this magnitude would not be possible."
Headquartered in Massachusetts, the Lithium ion battery maker has signed contracts with Navistar and Fisker to supply advanced batteries for their vehicles since A123 received federal funding. Additional customers include BAE, Eaton, Shanghai Automotive Industry Corp. and other vehicle manufacturers.