EnerDel Announces Bigtime Battery Expansion for Electric Vehicles

Image: Michael Nemeth
A big announcement hit the battery world last week as EnerDel revealed plans to greatly expand its American lithium-ion production. EnerDel is already something of a big wheel in the battery market. Despite the dissolution of a promising contract with Fisker, EnerDel is building battery packs for Volvo, THINK, the US military, and others, and is ramping up its production capacity in anticipation of much more action.EnerDel chairman and CEO Charles Gassenheimer was joined by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels (pictured above) at the company's current factory to announce the $237 million investment that would add 200,000 square-feet of production space and some 1400 jobs to the Indianapolis area over five years.

In his words to the gathered journalists, investors, and his own employees, Gassenheimer claimed that putting 100,000 electric cars on the road, a modest goal, would gobble up the world's entire current capacity for lithium-ion cells, at least the standard type found in laptops (the format used by Tesla Motors to power its cars). EnerDel is maneuvering to be a kingpin in the large-format battery market, and has developed a number of unique lithium-based chemistries specifically for fully electric cars as well as plug-in hybrids.

Image: Jacob Gordon

Gassenheimer also said that the single most effective way to bring down the cost of EV batteries is to expand their use in stationary applications; in other words, energy storage for renewables like wind and solar, and for peak shaving (storing electricity when demand is low). EnerDel is already working with its Japanese partner Itochhu to cultivate such markets. More on this in a subsequent post.

EnerDel's expansion and ongoing investment bodes well for its auto partners. Volvo representatives were there at the announcement to add details on the Swedish automaker's ambitions to bring an electric C30 to the market. Volvo plans to begin limited production of the electric C30 in the first quarter of 2011 for testing in Sweden, then to produce up to 1000 of them for the European market. Commercialization of a plug-in hybrid Volvo will commence in 2012. Of course, all of this assumes that Volvo's pending sale doesn't derail its EV programs. (See my test drive of Volvo's EV prototypes in Sweden).

Though it looked for a moment like it was curtains for THINK, the intriguing Scandinavian EV appears to be back in the game. EnerDel now owns 31% of the company and is producing its batteries. Production of the THINK City is due to start in Indiana as early as next year.

Tags: Electric Cars | Electric Vehicles | Hybrid Cars