It’s a company that has been around since the earliest days of the global automotive industry. Now, General Motors (GM) is set to step into the newest aspect of the industry by investing a considerable amount into new electric vehicle manufacturing facilities in the state of Michigan.
Part of GM’s ongoing shift towards the use of renewable energy in the automotive sector, the company recently announced that it is infusing around $7 billion in investments into electric vehicle (EV) production plants in Michigan. GM aims to achieve a production capacity of 1 million EV units from its Michigan facilities by end-2025.
Four billion dollars has been allocated towards the refurbishment of an EV assembly plant in Orion. This facility is expected to produce around 360,000 electric-powered pickup trucks by 2024. It will augment the 270,000-unit capacity of Factory Zero, GM’s EV Detroit-Hamtrack assembly plant. Factory Zero is where GM assembles four specific vehicles: the Chevrolet Silverado EV, Cruise Origin, GMC Hummer EV, and GMC Sierra EV. Orion will focus on the assembly of Sierra and Silverado models.
As of the end of 2020, GM’s assembly plants in Flint, MI; Fort Wayne, IN; Oshawa in Ontario; and Silao in Mexico were responsible for producing 850,000 units of the Sierra and Silverado. However, as the demand for EVs grows, some of these plants are expected to shift to the assembly of similar products.
At a recent conference, GM president Mark Reuss stated that several existing facilities are being utilized or retrofitted for the production or assembly of EVs. This is seen as a more efficient and cost-effective alternative to building entirely new facilities from the ground up. However, some critics say that putting $4 billion in for the retooling of an operational plant may essentially be seen as creating a new facility altogether.
As with the Detroit-Hamtrack facility, plans are already in place to scrap all the existing equipment setups within the Orion plant and replace them with more flexible systems for automated guided vehicles. A new body and paint shop is also in the works and equipment for assembling battery packs. In addition, GM expects to boost Orion’s current 1,000-strong manpower component by an additional 2,350 employees.
However, the manufacture of power cells will be done at entirely new factories. $2.6 billion of the investment has been divided between GM and LG Energy Systems for a joint venture, Ultium Cells LLC. Located on the outskirts of Lansing, MI, this new plant will have an annual capacity of 50GwH – considerably higher than the current combined capacity of GM’s cell production plants in Ohio and Tennessee.