Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (left) and Ener1 CEO Charles Gassenheimer holding an EnerDel lithium-ion battery.
Lithium-ion battery manufacturer EnerDel will invest $237 million in a new manufacturing plant near its Indianapolis area headquarters in order to meet anticipated demand for batteries used in automotive and other industrial applications.
The news follows a decision by EnerDel’s electric vehicle partner, Think, to establish a U.S. manufacturing facility in Indiana.
Backed by a mixture of private funds and public incentives, which are the current norm in the still moribund public lending markets despite multi-billion dollar taxpayer infusions of cash, the new facility will more than double EnerDel’s U.S. production capacity and create 1,400 new, non-union jobs.
Existing production capacity in what is still a prototype operation by automotive manufacturing standards, is 11,000 lithium-ion battery packs. However, demand is projected to soar during the next several years, if electric vehicles become as popular as environmentalists predict, and regulations and incentives increase the market.
Lithium ion batteries, though expensive, offer more power and have a longer life than the nickel metal hydride batteries that are used in the third generation Toyota Prius, the most successful electrified vehicle in history. EnerDel produces the batteries from raw materials and equipment produced in Japan and Korea since there is no indigenous advanced battery industry in the U.S.
A large majority of the six-year-old startup company’s central Indiana workforce is comprised of former employees of various General Motors companies, including Guide, Remy and Delco, storied producers of electronic components, which were severely damaged, downsized or closed as part of the Delphi and GM bankruptcies during the past several years.
Because of this long history, going all the way back to the invention of the electric starter by Charles Kettering for automobiles – an invention that thrust gasoline engines ahead and doomed an earlier generation of electric cars, Indiana seems ideally positioned to become an electric vehicle research and development center, as well as a manufacturing one. The current state rate of unemployment is 10%, about the national average, but some northern counties have much higher rates.