General Motors on Monday said it would invest US$336m in its Detroit-Hamtramck assembly plant to begin production of the Chevrolet Volt electric car, with extended-range capabilities, in 2010. The plant initially will also build Opel/Vauxhall Ampera variants for Europe although production of those is expected eventually to shift across the Atlantic, possibly to the Vauxhall plant in Ellesmere Port, north west England, though a final decision has not been made.

This brings GM's combined Volt-related investments in Michigan to $700m, over eight facilities. Detroit-Hamtramck will be the final assembly location for the Volt, using tooling from Grand Blanc, lithium-ion batteries from GM's Brownstown Township battery pack manufacturing facility, camshafts and connecting rods from Bay City, and stampings and, eventually, the Volt's 1.4-litre engine-generator from Flint (initial supplies will be imported).

"We expect the Detroit-Hamtramck plant will be the first facility in the US owned by a major automaker to produce an electric car. It is the hub for the wheel that we began rolling in 2007 when the Volt debuted at the [Detroit motor show]," said GM vice president of global product planning Jon Lauckner.

"Since then, the field of challengers and partners has grown significantly. This competition will expedite the development of electric vehicle technology and infrastructure."

After the Volt's debut in January 2007, other automakers announced six plug-in hybrid or electric vehicles later that year, followed by 19 introductions in 2008 and five more this year.

In addition to GM's $700m in Volt-related facility investments, there are the many suppliers, utility companies and organizations investing in Michigan and the US to support Volt production and electric vehicle development. In August, the US Department of Energy selected 45 companies, universities and organisations in 28 states for more than $2bn in awards for electric drive and battery manufacturing and transportation electrification.

To reduce cost and maximize flexible manufacturing techniques, some equipment for Volt production is being reused from other GM facilities and installed in the Detroit-Hamtramck plant's body shop. The car will be built on the existing assembly line at Detroit-Hamtramck. Assembly of prototype vehicles will begin in the spring, with the start of regular production scheduled for late 2010.

Detroit-Hamtramck opened in 1985, and currently employs about 1,200 workers, including 1,100 hourly workers represented by United Auto Workers (UAW) 'Local 22'.

The Volt is an electric vehicle with extended-range capability. It is designed to drive up to 40 miles (60km) on electricity without using petrol or producing tailpipe emissions. When the lithium-ion battery runs out, an engine/generator seamlessly operates to extend the total driving range to about 300 miles (500km) before refueling or stopping to recharge the battery. Pricing has not been announced.