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Greening Up Closed Auto Factories


December 31, 2008

Lithium-ion battery...the future of Electric Cars? Manufacture them in closed American auto plants. (Photo courtesy Varta (Museum Autovision Altlußheim, Germany) and Claus Ableiter.

New age battery makers are about to ask the new Congress for at least $1 billion, and maybe double that amount, to promote manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries, according to an article on December 26, 2008 in the New York Times. These highly efficient batteries, the article states, “are three times as efficient as internal combustion engines in typical cars.” 

One hurdle that has to be overcome, however, is the lack of factories to manufacture the batteries. The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture (AATBCM), which is a collection of lithium-ion business interests, claims there is not enough money to build factories since no major U.S. auto company is yet using the batteries for vehicles which run on electric.

Meanwhile, as we encounter depression conditions in areas where car manufacturers have closed production plants, maybe this push from AATBCM offers an opporunity to put people back to work and revitalize the towns that made us mobile.

Take, for example, Moraine, Ohio, outside of Dayton, where General Motors is scheduled to eliminate the facility that assembles the GMC Envoy and Chevrolet Trailblazer before mid 2010. The closure will affect an estimated 2,400 people, according to the Associated Press on June 4, 2008. If shuttered factories can be re-tolled to produce new battery technology, America can save jobs and set the course for green production facilities.

As we move through this economic time warp, the map is dotted with auto and steel plants that have or will soon lock their doors. The rusting buildings are silent witness to the memorable era of American manufacturing, which was unparalleled in vitality. With the right kind of charge from a newly energized Washington, we can, and will, re-gain our lost manufacturing gusto and become competitive again. Lithium-ion technology provides an opportunity for the United Auto Workers to work hand-in-hand with an emerging industry, fix up aged and idle plants and start moving the nation on a serious path of vehicular carbon reduction

With bailout monies supplied by the Treasury Department to GM and Chrysler, there should be a quid pro quo…old and unused brick and mortar assets such as decaying and silent factories should be earmarked for emerging enterprises to produce products like litium-ion batteries and reduce the spreading cancer of auto worker unemployment. Simply put, let’s retool the factories, and by so doing, address unemployment, promote vehicle efficiency, reduce carbon emissions and stimulate economic revitalization for future decades.

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