White House touts advanced vehicle technology investment

U.S. factories will be able to produce electric batteries and component parts to support up to 500,000 electric-drive vehicles annually by 2015, creating tens of thousands of jobs, according to a new Energy Department report.

"These jobs represent a shift -- the shift of important industries moving jobs back to American shores and the growth of a domestic battery industry," the report said.

The release of the report late Wednesday was timed to coincide with President Obama's visit Thursday to Holland, Mich., for the groundbreaking of a Compact Power plant. The Holland plant will manufacture batteries for 52,000 Chevy Volts a year, according to the White House.

Earlier this week, Ford announced it had selected the company, a subsidiary of South Korean-based LG Chem, to be the battery supplier for the 2011 Ford Focus Electric, which is scheduled to go on sale next year.

Energy has invested $12 billion in advanced vehicle technologies, almost half of it focused on electrifying the transportation sector. Under the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, the department has provided $2.4 billion in corporate-matched financing to establish 30 electric vehicle battery and component manufacturing plants nationwide to support various electric-vehicle demonstration projects.

In addition, the Recovery Act is funding the establishment of 20,000 vehicle charging locations, up from 500 that exist today, according to the report.

The investments are driving down the cost of batteries, improving their functionality and building a network of charging stations. "Meanwhile, they are actively putting more electric cars on the road and supporting the long-term domestic production of low-cost, clean energy vehicles," the report said.

In 2009, there were only two factories in the United States manufacturing advanced vehicle batteries, producing less than 2 percent of the world's supply. By 2012, 30 factories are scheduled to be producing such batteries, with the capacity to produce 20 percent of the world's advanced vehicle batteries, according to the report.

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