GM hires hundreds of workers in electric vehicle push

With the shrinking of the electric vehicle industry over the past three years, one of the country’s biggest auto makers — General Motors — is making a major investment in electric technology.

Three sources briefed on the matter say GM is hiring hundreds of workers at two of its auto plants near Detroit, and has made big hires for new positions as well. GM employs nearly 60,000 workers in Michigan and another 16,000 in its other U.S. states.

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GM declined to comment on the hiring but has said that it plans to invest $2 billion in its electric vehicle division to produce more vehicles in North America.

While the scope of GM’s new efforts is unclear, its announcement on the electric vehicle division suggests that GM may be preparing to shift production away from larger gas guzzlers that get big gas mileage.

Alfredo Altavilla, a GM spokesman, declined to comment on the hiring and production. But one of the sources confirmed that GM has not only expanded its electric vehicle efforts in Michigan, but also is expanding its “robo-cargo truck” or “electric truck,” an allusion to GM’s plans to make an autonomous vehicle that could be used as a delivery vehicle. It is also creating an all-electric passenger car and will deliver a newly released line of 10 new electrified vehicles over the next five years.

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The Detroit Free Press, which first reported on the hiring and production additions, also reported that GM is adding 450 jobs at its Orion Assembly plant where it builds the Chevrolet Volt plug-in hybrid, which gets about 36 miles per gallon. GM employs 4,000 people in its Orion plant.

The automaker, which is known for running small plants in Michigan and other areas, also is reportedly expanding a GM Orion plant that builds small pickups, which would help GM meet stricter fuel economy rules in its home state.

The Wayne Mercury plant in Detroit also is being converted to produce electric vehicles, the newspaper reported. Wayne Mercury makes the Chevrolet Impala, Pontiac G6 and the Chevy Colorado. It also builds the Chevrolet Bolt EV, which got 53 miles per gallon.

The batteries used in electric vehicles must be sized appropriately to deliver the energy needed to power the cars. Some electric vehicles need battery packs that weigh a ton or more. And because they are connected to each other, the batteries also need to weigh more. Because the batteries are smaller, cars can get their overall size and weight lowered.

Battery experts have said that while GM can grow its battery plant in Orion, it might not be able to get its Orion plant up to snuff as quickly as it would like. Tesla already operates a battery factory in Fremont, California, about a 20 minute drive from GM’s Fremont plant. GM last year announced a $400 million investment in its California plant, where it makes the Chevrolet Bolt EV and the Volt. It has not been disclosed whether the money is specifically going toward electric vehicle production.

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GM is also building a plant in Orion to make battery packs for its electric vehicles, according to sources. That plant, which GM is trying to complete in a matter of months, would be capable of producing at least 3,500 battery packs a day, compared to the 100 to 200 packs that were being produced in the plant.

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