Tesla Motors says the “Gigafactory” it’s currently building in Nevada will be the world’s largest producer of lithium-ion battery cells. In fact, it’s betting on the new factory’s massive volumes to provide the economy of scale needed to meet the upcoming Model 3’s $35,000 price point.
But could it be possible that another company built a Gigafactory years ago, and just let it sit idle?
Three years ago, LG Chem opened a $303 million battery factory in Holland, Michigan, but it mostly sat idle while the company imported batteries from South Korea for cars like the Chevrolet Volt. Now, though, the plant is humming. And considering that LG may soon use it to produce cells for the upcoming Chevy Bolt EV, production volumes could soon increase even more, estimates Automotive News.
LG Chem recently entered into an ambitious partnership with General Motors to supply many components for the Bolt EV, including the battery pack. The company hasn’t confirmed where the Bolt’s cells will be made, though. Nonetheless, the Holland plant could be on track to produce one quarter of North America’s total electric-car battery capacity by 2017, according to research firm Navigant.
The plant produces 650 megawatt-hours of cells per year, a rate that could rise to 3 gigawatt-hours within a couple of years. That might be enough to overtake Tesla’s Gigafactory while production there ramps up, but Tesla hopes to produce 35 gigawatt-hours of cells in Nevada by 2020. Production at the Nevada factory is expected to start next year.
LG Chem has been accumulating more business. The Holland plant already produces batteries for multiple GM models, including the Volt, Chevy Spark EV, and Cadillac ELR. It will also build batteries for the Cadillac CT6 Plug-In Hybrid when production of that model begins next year. Tesla also recently signed a contract with LG Chem for replacement batteries for its discontinued Roadster. And LG said in April that it will soon begin producing batteries for a new, unidentified customer.