The US government has allocated over US$600m to the three Detroit-based automakers to further develop hybrid and electric vehicle battery technology.

The awards to GM, Ford and Chrysler were part of a $2.4bn grant package President Barack Obama will announce later today in Elkhart, Indiana, a city hard-hit by 15,000 job losses in the last year, and with 16.8% unemployment at the end of June, according to Bloomberg Television.

The funding will boost the Obama administration’s ‘green’ economy vision and efforts to enhance US energy independence, Reuters said.

Obama wants to create a battery manufacturing base in the United States that will create “tens of thousands” of jobs, administration officials told the news agency.

The president will today allocate $1.5bn for battery makers, $500m for electric motor producers and $400m for test vehicles.

“If we want to reduce our dependence on oil, put Americans back to work and reassert our manufacturing sector as one of the greatest in the world, we must produce the advanced, efficient vehicles of the future,” Obama said in remarks prepared for delivery in Elkhart.

Almost all battery manufacturing for advanced technology vehicles is currently based in Asia though Nissan recently announced it would eventually build plants in the UK and Portugal. Toyota has said it would be desirable to have battery plants near where hybrid and electric vehicles are assembled but has not yet announced plans to build such cars outside Japan, apart from the Lexus hybrid made in Canada.

White House economic and energy department officials said 48 projects in 25 states would receive money under a deal that requires winners to match federal investment.

The LG Chem company set to supply batteries for GM’s Chevrolet Volt plug-in, due out in 2010, will receive $151m, a Johnson Controls-Saft partnership supplying a battery system for Ford’s first plug-in hybrid, due in 2012, will receive $299m and a Chrysler venture with with A123 Systems will get $249m.