Less than six months after Michigan lost one high-profile R&D center for alternative-fuel vehicles (that of Tesla Motors, shuttered last fall), the state has wooed another: Daimler AG’s Mercedes-Benz Hybrid subsidiary plans to build a $9.9 million R&D facility in southeast Michigan for propulsion systems that can be used in alternative-fuel as well as conventional vehicles.
Lured away from an alternate site in South Carolina by $7.5 million worth of state tax credits over the next decade (approved yesterday), and possibly more tax incentives at the local level, the automaker will create more than 450 jobs with the project, according to an announcement from the office of Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm.
Daimler has taken up a series of alt-fuel vehicle ventures in recent months. The luxury automaker hatched a deal with Tesla Motors earlier this year to get battery packs and chargers from the startup for the 1,000 electric Smart cars that Daimler has slated for release in the U.S. in 2010. Across the pond, Daimler partnered with Italy’s largest electricity producer, Enel, late last year to roll out more than 100 electric Smart Fortwos for testing with vehicle-charging stations by 2010. The company has a similar program in Berlin, and plans to launch others throughout the U.S. and Europe.
Don’t expect Daimler to keep all of the systems planned for development at the Michigan lab to itself. Marketing them to outside companies, the company would not be the first to pursue alt-fuel vehicle components supply for extra cash in the early stages of electric car development. Already, Daimler has taken a 90 percent stake in a joint venture with Evonik Industries AG of Germany to develop lithium-ion batteries for its own vehicles — and eventually third-party manufacturers. According to a report in Germany’s Handelsblatt this week (picked up by AFP), the company is now on the hunt for a second partner for the enterprise.