Underscoring a commitment to positioning the Commonwealth as the center of the nation’s automotive industry of the future, Gov. Steve Beshear announced that Kentucky has been selected as the site for a proposed domestic battery manufacturing and headquarters facility.
The National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries has chosen a Glendale site five miles south of Elizabethtown as the home for a potential investment in excess of $600 million to develop the first-of-its-kind manufacturing facility for lithium-ion battery cells. Kentucky was selected over Texas, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, New York, Pennsylvania and South Carolina.
NAATBatt is a not-for-profit industry consortium of more than 50 corporations, associations and research institutions dedicated to making the United States a world leader in the manufacture of advanced lithium-ion or Li-Ion battery cells for transportation applications.
“This proposal will put Kentucky in a prime position to be the country’s leading manufacturer of the clean-energy cars of the future,” Beshear said Monday in announcing the proposal. “Kentucky’s strong roots in the automotive industry, as well as its close proximity to suppliers, manufacturers and researchers, make it a natural fit for production of the next generation of hybrid technology batteries.”
The 1,551-acre Glendale site, which sits adjacent to Interstate 65 and the CSX rail line, runs along what is commonly called “Auto Alley” and will be submitted as part of NAATBatt’s application to the U.S. Department of Energy.
NAATBatt must submit its application to the DOE by May 19 and anticipates a decision to be made this summer. If successful in securing the required funding, the Kentucky facility could begin construction immediately.
Under the federal stimulus plan, the Obama administration has set aside $2 billion for electric drive vehicle battery and component manufacturing projects. President Obama has specifically noted the importance of developing lithium-ion batteries to ensure that the United States plays a central role in producing the next generation of clean technology automobiles.
If successful in securing federal funding, NAATBatt would establish a manufacturing campus in Glendale, which would consist of a headquarters facility, a manufacturing facility used to refine products and production processes, and a larger operation designed for mass battery manufacturing. Total square footage of the campus is expected to reach 1 million square feet.
This one-of-a-kind manufacturing operation could create as many as 2,000 new full-time jobs with an average annual wage exceeding $40,000, and represent a capital investment in excess of $600 million in Kentucky. An estimated additional 1,500 construction-related jobs would also be created for a period of 12 to 18 months.
“Hardin County is extremely excited to have NAATBatt choose to locate their facility in our community,” said Greg Jenkins, chairman of the Elizabethtown/Hardin County Industrial Foundation. “To be involved in this cutting edge, renewable energy project is a great opportunity for us and the jobs created for our citizens are most welcome during these challenging economic times.”
NAATBatt plans to develop a large scale “flexible manufacturing” facility that will contract to manufacture Li-Ion battery cells of various chemistries, formats and designs for multiple battery companies.
NAATBatt will provide U.S. cell manufacturers of all sizes and stages of development with access to a national resource, which they may use to enter the Li-Ion market.
Production lines in both manufacturing facilities would house state-of-the-art equipment with flexibility to pursue multiple production ideas and products at one time. Alliance members would have the ability to run trials to demonstrate and validate their own technology on a cost-share basis with the rest of the alliance.
Many experts believe that lithium-ion batteries will replace gasoline as a major source of energy in future cars and military vehicles. Today, United States automobile manufacturers and defense contractors depend upon foreign suppliers — increasingly concentrated in Asia — for lithium-ion battery cells.
Last week, Beshear announced the formation of a new national Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center in central Kentucky to help develop and deploy a domestic supply of advanced battery technologies for vehicle applications. The national center is a partnership with the Commonwealth, Argonne National Laboratory, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
Chicago-based Argonne was instrumental in the formation of the alliance, which began with 14 founding members and has grown to more than 50 members today.
“The announcement last week of the partnership between Kentucky and Argonne National Lab that will initially focus on lithium-ion battery manufacturing research and development is proof that the vision is starting to be realized. NAATBatt will continue the realization of this vision with the funding it will seek from DOE under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009," said Sanford Kane, NAATBatt treasurer.
The alliance is modeled after Sematech, which was formed by U.S. computer-chip companies in 1987 to compete with the Japanese. Sematech, now based in Austin, Texas, is credited with helping U.S. companies regain their footing by focusing on manufacturing and design advancements with funding from the federal government.
“We think Sematech was one of the best examples of collaborative intervention in an industry,” said Jim Greenberger, one of the founding members of the alliance.
“Today’s development is further evidence of the strong momentum we’re building here in Kentucky as we position ourselves to be a leader in this national initiative,” Beshear said. “There is a tremendous opportunity to make Kentucky the battery technology capital of the U.S., bringing an infusion of ‘green’ technology jobs to the state. I plan to pursue every avenue to seize this opportunity.”