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Published: Wednesday, 8/7/2013 - Updated: 11 months ago

Local Johnson Controls facility to make batteries for Chevy Eco

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Johnson Controls Inc., a major supplier of batteries and battery technology to the auto industry, said Wednesday that it is supplying General Motors Co. with advanced batteries for use in Chevrolet’s 2014 Malibu Eco sedan that will hit showrooms this fall.

And the fuel-saving Absorbent Glass Mat technology batteries that Johnson Controls is providing to GM are being made at the firm’s local manufacturing facility.

The batteries also are being made at a Johnson Controls plant in St. Joseph, Mo.

In July, 2011, Milwaukee-based Johnson Controls began investing $138.5 million to upgrade the Toledo battery plant at 10300 Industrial Rd. in Spencer Township near Toledo Express Airport, specifically so that it could begin making the company’s Absorbent Glass Mat batteries in North America. At the time, the batteries were only made in Europe.

The multimillion investment gave the Toledo plant a production capacity of 6 million Absorbent Glass Mat batteries as of 2013.

The investment created 50 jobs at the Toledo plant, which already employed 400. In 2012 that plant became Johnson Controls’ first to make Absorbent Glass Mat batteries in North America.

Absorbent Glass Mat batteries are used to power “start-stop” systems in high-efficiency vehicles.

In a “start-stop” system, which was initially found only in hybrid vehicles, a car’s engine shuts off when the driver comes to a stop.

The battery powers devices during the stop mode and quickly restarts the engine when the driver’s foot releases the brake pedal.

The Malibu Eco model with eAssist pairs a 2.4-liter four-cylinder gasoline engine with a Johnson Controls-made lithium-ion battery that powers an electric motor.

The six-cell Absorbent Glass Mat battery can increase the Malibu Eco’s fuel economy by an estimated 5 percent, according to Johnson Controls officials.

“AGM technology is better equipped than traditional batteries to power the deep cycling needed for frequent starts and stops,” said Ray Shemanski, vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls Power Solutions’ Original Equipment Group. “With 5 percent fuel savings, drivers will see immediate economic benefits with start-stop at a competitive price when compared to hybrid and electric vehicles.”

In Europe, Johnson Controls has sold more than 21 million Absorbent Glass Mat batteries under its Varta brand since 2001 and now produces more than 4.5 million annually for vehicles there that utilize start-stop technology.

In a statement, Chad Lyons, a Chevrolet spokesman, said, “We offer start-stop technology in some of our European products, but the new Malibu start-stop system is the first standard in an automatic car for GM overall.”

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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