Despite a bankruptcy filing that's barely a week old, General Motors is fighting to preserve its image as a relevant and potent member of the automotive industry. To that end, GM today announced the opening of its Global Battery Systems Lab in Warren, Michigan.

The new lab is where GM will do the foundation work on its next-gen electric, hybrid and fuel-cell vehicles, as well as further development work on the upcoming 2011 Chevrolet Volt. Both individual cells and assembled packs will be tested and developed on-site.

"The new global GM battery lab will benefit consumers across America by helping us advance the development of battery technology in the United States and put cleaner, more efficient vehicles on the road more quickly and affordably," said Fritz Henderson, GM president and CEO. "Our new lab improves GM's competitiveness by speeding the development of our hybrid, plug-in and extended-range electric vehicles, including the Chevrolet Volt."

Corporate-speak aside, the fact that GM is building the plant in the U.S. is a important step to keeping both workers and the public happy. There had been some fear that bankruptcy would offer a convenient excuse to export even more manufacturing and R&D outside the U.S.

The Global Battery Systems Lab is a 33,000 square foot facility, and will house the efforts of GM's advanced technology team that is currently at 1,000 engineers and still growing. Forty-two thermal chambers and 160 test channels give the chance to evaluate batteries under nearly any condition imaginable. Power output at the plant is a massive 6 megawatts, enough to power a small town.

Construction on the plant started last August, just before the economy tucked into its nosedive. It has been complete and under testing since May, with the official opening today marking the lab's start of full-scale business. GM says the lab is now the largest of its kind in the U.S.