Grants Steered to Green Car Research
$2.4 Billion for Battery Makers
By Dana Hedgpeth and Scott Wilson
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The Obama administration announced $2.4 billion in
grants to companies developing car battery and hybrid technology as the
president and others traveled around the country Wednesday to extol the
benefits of the government's massive stimulus package.
Ford and its two struggling rivals, General Motors
and Chrysler, were among the biggest beneficiaries of the aid, receiving
more than $400 million for research and development work as part of an
energy program meant to create jobs and reduce the country's reliance on
President Obama touted the grants during a stop in
Elkhart, Ind., as he sought to defend his administration's handling of
the downturn. He discussed how new spending on education and research,
and his push to reform health care -- which he says will eventually
bring down costs to business -- fit together to form the basis of a
The energy grants, for instance, amount to the
largest-ever investment in battery technology -- creating and
preserving, Obama said, "thousands of Hoosier jobs."
Vice President Biden and Cabinet members announced
individual grants during visits to Michigan, North Carolina and other
states. "For too long we failed to invest in this kind of work, even as
countries like China and Japan were racing ahead," Obama said. "I want
the cars of the future and the technologies that power them to be built
The awards mark the end of an intense competition
among more than 250 companies and universities vying for the work. All
told, 48 programs received funding in more than 20 states, including 11
programs in Michigan and seven in Indiana.
Among the big winners in Michigan was Johnson
Controls, which will receive nearly $300 million. The company, a
supplier to Ford, is turning a plant in Holland, Mich., that once made
electronics for car interiors into one that will produce lithium-ion
cells for hybrid vehicles and assemble battery systems.
Another company, A123 Systems, received $249.1
million. It has a deal to supply Chrysler.
Other winners in Michigan include Compact Power and
Dow Kokam, which will get $300 million for making battery cells and
materials. The University of Michigan, Wayne State University and
Michigan Technological University will get funds for workforce
General Motors was the biggest winner among the Big
Three Detroit automakers.
It received $241.4 million to make battery packs for
its Chevrolet Volt electric car, build a real-wheel electric-drive
system and do other work. Ford received $92.7 million in grants to make
electric drive axles, plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and other
projects. Chrysler received $70 million to develop 220 plug-in hybrid
electric pickups and minivans.
Four of the top recipients have foreign partners or
foreign-related subsidiaries, according to Department of Energy
officials. The government has insisted that companies do their
manufacturing in the United States.
During his stop in Elkhart, Obama singled out a
grant to Navistar, a recreational-vehicle maker there that once employed
116,00 people and now has just 12,000 workers.
The company will receive a $39 million grant to
build 400 battery-powered trucks -- an announcement that drew raucous
applause. One woman shouted: "Thank you."
"Thank you," Obama answered. "Thank the American
Wilson reported from Elkhart.