In the past, U.S. manufacturers of electric vehicles have had to depend on foreign suppliers for the high-performance batteries needed. But the expansion of production facilities for battery components in Charlotte, North Carolina is helping to change that. Celgard, a manufacturer of lithium battery separators, received a $49 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy to stimulate battery production in the United States.
The grant is being used to finance part of a $100 million project to expand Celgard’s production plant in Charlotte and to construct a new plant in Concord, North Carolina. The project was cited as one of the 100 Recovery Act Projects that are Changing America, a report issued by the office of Vice President Joe Biden. According to the federal government’s Energy Empowers website, Celgard plans to add enough capacity in the U.S. to support the assembly of at least 20,000 plug-in vehicle batteries per year.
Celgard develops and produces battery separators consisting of polypropylene, polyethylene, or trilayer electrolytic membranes that provide a barrier between the anode and cathode, preventing short circuits and controlling the exchange of lithium ions from one side of the battery to the other. In addition to electric vehicle batteries, the separators are also used in batteries for laptops, cell phones, digital cameras, power tools, and reserve power systems.
In September 2010, the Charlotte Business Journal reported on the groundbreaking of the 150,000 square foot production facility in the International Business Park in Concord, North Carolina. The report quotes Mitch Pulwer, general manager of Celgard, as indicating that the company has added 60 employees to support the expansion of the Charlotte plant and the new Concord facility. Contractors and suppliers have hired an additional 50 employees, and will eventually add 1,000 employees. Production at the Concord plant is expected to begin in early 2013.
The Independent Tribune points out that the Celgard plants producing battery separators put Concord and Cabarrus Counties in North Carolina in a good position for the future development of an electric vehicle manufacturing plant. In addition to Celgard, the area is also home to SBM Solar, Inc., a company that makes light and pliable non-glass solar panels that can be used on electric vehicles. According to the report in the Independent Tribune, SBM Solar has started working with Vision Motor Cars, Inc., a start-up electric vehicle manufacturer, to develop panels to be used in their vehicles. The report quotes Brooks, Agnew, president and CEO of Vision Motor Cars as indicating that the vacant Philip Morris plant in Concord would be an ideal location for a large-scale vehicle manufacturing plant.
Celgard plant a sign of new industry for Cabarrus? – Independent Tribune
Ken Elkins, “Celgard plant nears start in Concord’s International Business Park” – Charlotte Business Journal
SBM Solar Inc.
VP100: Charlotte sees next-gen vehicle supply expansion – Energy Empowers