LG Chem battery production delayed — again
LG Chem batteries
The long-delayed production of lithium-ion batteries at the LG Chem plant in Holland has run into another stumbling block.
LG Chem Michigan Inc. said Friday it had learned that an unspecified, low-volume ingredient used in its production process had not been registered with the Environmental Protection Agency for use in manufacturing in the United States. "We discovered the possibility that this material may not be properly registered and made the decision to pause our production until we have that question resolved," company spokesman Jeremy Hagemeyer said in an email to news media.
"We are currently reviewing the registration status and will work with the EPA to resolve the issue quickly," the email continued. "In the meanwhile, we are delaying production activities for approximately 6 weeks until we have confirmed the registration status or otherwise obtain approval from EPA."
The $303 million LG plant on 48th Street was built with the help of a $151 million federal stimulus grant to produce batteries for electric and hybrid cars. The factory was greeted with great fanfare, with President Barack Obama attending the groundbreaking in 2010. It was completed the following year, but the production line sat idle for two years, with employees put on rolling furloughs. The inactivity became a political issue and national news story when it was discovered that idle employees were watching movies, playing cards and doing volunteer work rather than producing batteries.
Officials with the South Korea-based company attributed the lack of activity to lower than expected demand for the Chevrolet Volt hybrid car.
The U.S. Auditor General investigated the plant and asked LG Chem to reimburse the federal government $842,000 of the $151 million it received in stimulus funding after determining employees were not engaged in production work. LG complied with the request.
In May, LG said it had begun running tests on the production line, and last month, the company said it expected to start shiping batteries to General Motors for the Volt in late September or October.
Hagemeyer said that during the temporary situation, employees would engage in continuous improvement projects, specialized training and maintaining readiness.
"We view this as a temporary issue and are very confident that we will proceed with production soon," he said.