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Fear in Rural Michigan Over Battery Factory

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The idea of a Chinese company building a factory in a small Michigan town has ignited a firestorm of criticism.

Some describe the land where the factory is to be built as pristine farmland that will be desecrated by industrial use. It is going down in Green Charter Township is just north of Big Rapids which is an hour north of Grand Rapids

Gotion is a battery manufacturer with a primary emphasis on lithium iron phosphate batteries. Unlike traditional nickel manganese cobalt batteries, LFP batteries can withstand abuses such as being smashed with an ax or pierced with a nail without experiencing a thermal runaway event — which is just a pretty name for a battery fire.

However, LFP batteries tend to have a lower energy density than NMC batteries. They are great for powering heavy duty trucks, but not so great for powering high performance sports cars. In May, Gotion announced its L600 Astroinno battery, which adds manganese to the traditional LFP recipe, would be located in Green Charter Township near Big Rapids.

Gotion is planning to manufacture batteries in the US, spurred no doubt by the generous production credits provided by the Inflation Reduction Act. After an extensive search, it settled on a 270 acre parcel of land in Green Charter Township. The factory, when completed, would produce 150,000 tons of cathode material and 50,000 tons of anode material a year. It would employ more than 2300 workers and cost about $2.3 billion. Gotion is anxious to get going. In 2021 it said it has a deal with an unnamed “major publicly traded US automaker” for 200 GWh a year of batteries.

The state of Michigan are spending nearly $800 million in grants and tax exemptions from its strategic fund, whose officials said the investment would bring jobs, customers, and economic vitality to the region. Michigan governor Gretchen Whitmer hailed the factory as a win for the state.

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