Chicago, Illinois – Several U.S. battery and advanced materials companies have formed the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, with the intention to manufacture advanced lithium-ion battery cells for transportation applications in the United States. Currently, most automobile manufacturers depend on foreign suppliers for the cells, most of them in Asia.

The founding members of the Alliance include 3M, ActaCell, All Cell Technologies, Altair Nanotechnologies, Dontech Global, EaglePicher Corporation, EnerSys, Envia Systems, FMC, MicroSun Technologies, Mobius Power, SiLyte, Superior Graphite, and Townsend Advanced Energy. Other companies are expected to join as well. The U.S. Department of Energy’s Argonne National Laboratory will serve in an advisory role as the Alliance begins operations.

The Alliance seeks to develop one or more manufacturing and prototype development centres in the U.S., to be shared by members. It is anticipated that developing the capability to mass-produce advanced battery cells will require an investment of US$1 to $2 billion over five years. Most is expected to come from the federal government, as no U.S.-based battery companies can assume the risk as there are no current orders for batteries. The single, large manufacturing facility will avoid companies having to compete for smaller forms of government support. The Alliance said in a statement that lithium-ion battery cell manufacture is heavily subsidized in many countries and that it “hopes to level the playing field.”

“A small, fragmented battery industry will not long survive in the face of determined Asian competition,” said consultant Ralph Brodd. “Other countries are investing heavily in the manufacture of lithium-ion cells. Those countries understand that whoever makes the batteries will one day make the cars.”

U.S. automakers are expected to play an important role in the Alliance and are being invited to serve on the Alliance’s advisory board. The board will help the cell makers move toward standardized cell formats that will simplify manufacture and ultimately lower the costs of the cells.

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