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Why Are There No Volume Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturers in the US?

The shift toward electric drive systems is well underway—whether the future is an all-electric vehicle, a plug-in hybrid or a fuel cell vehicle, the machine that actually turns the wheels will likely be an electric motor, with some form of energy storage.

That makes electric motors and batteries critical technologies. Ford continues to grumble about predatory practices locking up hybrid components. Yet the US, despite its role in researching and developing new rechargeable battery technologies, has no volume manufacturing role.

A study prepared earlier this year for the Advanced Technology Program of the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) explores the problem of R&D versus manufacturing through the lens of lithium-ion batteries—the rechargeable battery technology that’s on deck for the next wave of mass deployment.

The report—Factors Affecting U.S. Production Decisions: Why are There No Volume Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturers in the United States?—draws the following conclusions:

  • The U.S. battery companies opted out of volume manufacturing of Li-ion batteries, primarily because of a low return on investment compared with their existing business, the significant time and investment required from conception to commercialization, and the time and expense required to establish a sales organization in Japan to access product design opportunities and take advantage of them.

  • Labor costs were not a major issue impeding large-volume production of the cells in the United States. The cost of labor in the United States was essentially the same as for the Japanese manufacturers domestically. The Asian strategy of providing facilities and loans to establish manufacturing locally and create jobs was a more important factor.

  • The tendency could be for technological development to follow manufacturing to East Asia, as a natural consequence of developing manufacturing expertise. Primary as well as rechargeable battery production will slowly shift to China, Korea, and Southeast Asia. U.S. manufacturers pursuing other budding energy technologies, such as fuel cells, will face similar issues.

  • Opportunities still exist for U.S. companies to successfully enter niche markets, such as those with medical, military, or space applications. Mechanisms for cooperation between government-academia and industry need to be implemented to assure that advanced materials technologies have the resources and direction to succeed.

Not that encouraging a picture.

(A hat-tip to Joe Adiletta!)

Resources:

Comments

Emmanuel M

Lets not forget Electrovaya, Canadian manufacturer of a proprietary form of Lithium ion battery. The company web site does not indicate the volume of production but states that they employ 120 manufacturing employees.

Marshall

The US for the last thirty years has been moving toward a service-based economy, not goods-based. My mother has summed up the situation perfectly - `we flip burgers for each other'.

::sigh::

-mt

Jerry

I'm really looking forward to some sort of mass-produced advanced battery, US or otherwise.

When I built my first EV NiMh where just starting to show promise, but still very expensive. Ended up using lead acid.

Now it's ten years later and the pricing/availability is still pretty bad for NiMh and even more-so for Lithium.

If nothing else I hope the clamor for hybrids sparks advances in batteries and a reduction in price. Improved motors and control electronics would be icing on the cake.

-Jerry

http://www.evconvert.com/

wintermane

Most likely while putting the heat on the current provider to make more batteries ford is looking toward a chinese firm to mass produce cheaper batteries for the future.

Oh people complain about epa numbers being wrong... they arnt. The problem is our roads have changed a ton since the epa numbers first came out. Envirogits and mass transit twits have fubared up the road system to the point stop start traffic and poor flow and speed have downgraded fuel eff by a large margin.

Back in the old days when roads were king and built properly you didnt need 0-60 in 4 seconds to merge into traffic . Back in the 70s it was quite common to have utility cars that had 0-60 times of 30 seconds! But the roads allowed it. Now you can get rear ended even in a freaking lamborgenie! Then a common merge lane was miles long now its maybe 200 feet and into traffic 500x as dense as in the 70s.

Lucas

Lithium Ion batteries were invented and proven right here in the good old usa by a government supported facility. I was then sold for $1 to a USA owned battery company. Before the ink was dry, the Asians bought the technology for hundreds of millions of dollars.

Since we no longer own the patent, we can't build Lithium Ion batteries without paying an impossible royality.

Aren't you proud of our "government?"

Leigh

Don't forget about E-one Moli Energy (British Columbia). They are used in Power tools. Hmm... so Canadian's are on top of this shiz... what about the US?

KIKI

It is pretty indecent of big US businesses to shortchange the American people based on greed but it is the intrinsic nature of capitalism that it will create economic stratification. When you have an economic system based on greed and that greed creates power and control, you will automatically have poeple who will undermine progress in order to maintain their own profits. Blame large oil companies who basically control the auto market. Why would they wish to invest in lithium ion batteries when it would interfere with their profits. The less gas that is sold, the less profit they make. Simple. We have had the technology for decades now to power engines on various types of fuels including biofuels which are regeneratable. It was proven in the 1970s that acorns could be cold pressed to make an oil that is as pure as olive with high viscosity and a high burn threshold but auto makers and oil companies as well as the government ignored this alternative based on immediate profit generation. We as US citizens are exactly as Emmanuel says, we are a service nation. The poor flip burgers for the rich. And it is the fossil fuel based leadership that is creating this downfall.

jethro Naude

As far as I can see that fact remains, people are being made ignorant to the fact that they have a choice. Global warming AND Energy independance can systematically both be solved by mass introduction of EV vehicles.

As far as battery makers go there are a few that are currently working on mass producing LITHIUM ION batteries they are:

Lithuim Technology www.lithiumtech.com
Johnson Controls
Cobrasys
Altair nanotech

That is just a few ... times are changed, the US needs to wake the hell up and pull the OIL needle out of its vein .... Go cold turkey and make the shift over!

I can't wait to see more EV's on the road than gas guzzlers!

der

that's crazy nobody wants to manufacture something that will save our earth

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