Photo Credit: Wall Street JournalThe Obama administration’s electric car efforts took another hit on Wednesday after a federal inspection found a South Korean advanced battery maker never scaled up U.S. production despite receiving $142 million in federal grants.
A Holland, Mich., factory owned by LG Chem Ltd., part of LG Corp., was half-funded by a government grant and estimated to add some 440 jobs building battery cells for General Motors Co.’s Chevrolet Volt and other vehicles.
When demand for the plant’s batteries didn’t meet expectations, the company filled orders with cells made at a factory in South Korea, leaving the Michigan plant largely idle, according to the report by the Department of Energy’s Inspector General, Gregory Friedman.
LG Chem said in a statement that production delays at the Michigan facility were “market-driven,” adding that it is “developing specific plans for the start of production.” The company said it regretted that it applied for reimbursement for “employment costs that were not allowed” under its U.S. grant.
The inspector general said that to avoid layoffs at the factory LG Chem paid idle workers $1.6 million in the third quarter of last year, about half of which was covered by its U.S. grant, even though there was nothing for them to do. The workers played board games, watched movies, and volunteered at local animal shelters during regular work hours, Mr. Friedman said. LG Chem has since paid back the government’s share of those charges.
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