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Business

U.S. Companies Form Lithium Battery Alliance

by Alexander H. Tullo
December 22, 2008 | APPEARED IN VOLUME 86, ISSUE 51

Argonne National Laboratory has teamed up with battery and materials companies in an alliance to establish U.S. manufacturing of lithium-ion batteries for transportation applications. Dubbed the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture, it includes 3M, FMC, and a host of smaller developers of battery materials and technology. The companies want to build one or more prototype and manufacturing centers in the U.S. during the next five years at a cost of $1 billion to $2 billion. Modeled on Sematech, which successfully kept the semiconductor industry from moving offshore, the alliance is meant to help the U.S. catch up to Asia in developing battery technology. It expects most of the funding to come from the federal government. "For 20 years, the U.S. has sat idly and watched foreign markets become the leaders in lithium-ion technology," says Alan Elshafei, CEO of alliance member MicroSun Technologies. In Germany, meanwhile, auto giant Daimler has taken a 49.9% stake in Li-Tec, the subsidiary of Evonik Industries that specializes in lithium-ion battery development, a field in which Evonik has already invested nearly $100 million. The partners are planning a second joint venture to develop and produce lithium-ion batteries for vehicles.

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