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Bayer Corporation Opens Electric Vehicle Charging Station

By | Energy, Infrastructure, Innovation, Technology, Transportation | No Comments

Furthering its commitment to sustainability, NAM member Bayer Corporation last week opened an electric vehicle charging station for employees at its U.S. headquarters in Pittsburgh. The Bayer charging station is one of the 45 stations that will be built along Pennsylvania Interstate 376 as part of the “Energy 376 Corridor” project. The project’s goal is to create one of the most extensive charging station networks in the country. The station is located next to Bayer’s EcoCommercial Building Conference Center, which is a net-zero energy facility.

Dan Santmyer, Director of Operations at the Bayer Pittsburgh site, said in a press release, “the installation of the EV charging station is part of the company’s global commitment to sustainability. We are proud to provide our employees with the infrastructure that supports their efforts to drive, rent or purchase EV’s and reduce their personal footprint on the environment.”

Learn more about Bayer’s comprehensive sustainability program here.

The Regulatory Burdens on Lithium Batteries

By | General, Innovation, Regulations, Technology | No Comments

In our quick review of the remarks and commentary on the dedication of the Systems 123 lithium-ion battery plant in Livonia, Mich., on Monday (see post below), we find no mention of the costly and unnecessary regulations that the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration has proposed for air shipment of those batteries.

Now, no one wants to rain on a new plant’s parade, but the conflicting messages coming the Obama Administration would have been a useful area of inquiry for reporters. (See Monday post, “Lithium Batteries: Boosting with Subsidies, Draining with Regs.”)

A good query for Energy Secretary Chu might have been: The Administration believes global leadership in battery technology and manufacturing is critical for economic growth. Why, then, is the Administration also proposing shipping regulations that will make these batteries less competitive?

For more on the safety issues, we commend this Aug. 24 letter in USA Today from George A. Kerchner, Executive Director of the The Rechargeable Battery Association, “Batteries can be transported safely.” Excerpt:

Over the past decade, passengers have brought millions of lithium-ion batteries and millions of portable electronic devices — cellphones, laptop computers, portable DVD players, even medical defibrillators — on board an aircraft without incident. These batteries and products also have been transported by air safely when those shipments complied with existing hazardous materials regulations.

Of the 113 battery “incidents” cited by the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), more than half did not involve lithium-ion or lithium-metal batteries. Many cases were due to shippers who failed to comply with existing hazardous materials regulations.

There also is a misperception about regulation of products carried onto aircraft by passengers. Hazardous materials regulations in fact do impose carry-on restrictions for small lithium-ion batteries. The regulations state that passengers may carry these batteries or equipment onboard the aircraft only if intended for personal use. The regulations also require each spare battery be individually protected to prevent short circuits. The passenger who brought 58 cellphones, batteries and chargers on the American Airlines flight appeared to be in violation of the rules.

Finally, FAA testing has demonstrated that fire suppression agents installed in transport category aircraft are effective in suppressing a lithium-ion battery fire, and testing by the UK Civil Aviation Authority has confirmed that any fire that might occur in a passenger cabin can readily be controlled.

The association has much more information on the issue at its website, www.prba.org.

President Obama and Vice President Biden have visited battery plants more than a half-dozen times, and given the political and taxpayer investment the Administration has made in the technology, it’s a safe bet there will be future visits. To the reporters covering those visits, please! Ask the question.

Battery Technology, Battery Manufacturing

By | Energy, General, Technology | No Comments

Monday was a big day in Livonia, Mich., as the lithium-battery manufacturer 123 Systems dedicated its new plant.

President Obama called in with a message to employees:

I met with David and some of the A123 team here at the White House back in April, and it’s incredibly exciting to see how far you guys have come since we announced these grants just over a year ago.  And this is important not just because of what you guys are doing at your plant, but all across America, because this is about the birth of an entire new industry in America — an industry that’s going to be central to the next generation of cars.  And it’s going to allow us to start exporting those cars, making them comfortable, convenient, and affordable.  It helps our manufacturing industry to thrive, and with it, that means our communities and our states and our country are going to thrive.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu was there, and he blogged at the event at WhiteHouse.gov, “Revitalizing American Manufacturing“:

At a difficult time for America’s workers and businesses, A123 Systems is leading the way to a brighter future. It is building factories in Livonia, Romulus, and Brownstown. It has already has hired 200 local workers since last August and it expects to hire more than 3,000 people by 2012. Today marks an important milestone for A123 Systems, as they open largest lithium-ion automotive battery production facility in North America. This will help make sure the cars of the future are built right here in America.This particular project is important because it has managed to link innovation in America to manufacturing in America, an essential connection that has been neglected in recent years.

Congratulations to Systems 123.

Recovery Summer, Electrified

By | Economy, Energy | No Comments

From The Whitehouse, “Administration Officials Continue Travel Across the Country for “Recovery Summer” Events, Project Site Visits“:

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, President Obama and other Administration officials are continuing to hold “Recovery Summer” events and visit Recovery Act project sites as part of a focus on the surge in Recovery Act projects underway across the country this summer. The Recovery Act has already funded tens of thousands of projects and put about 2.5 million Americans to work, but this summer is the most active Recovery Act season yet, with thousands of new projects breaking ground that are helping to create more jobs for American workers and economic growth for businesses large and small.

President Obama
President Obama will travel to Kansas City, Missouri to visit Smith Electric Vehicles, where he will tour the facilities and deliver remarks on the economy to workers. Smith Electric Vehicles is an all-electric, zero emissions commercial truck manufacturer that received a $32 million Recovery Act grant to build all-electric trucks. The award, which is part of the $2.4 billion in Recovery Act advanced battery and electric vehicle grants the President announced last August, is helping Smith Electric establish operations at a re-purposed jet engine overhaul facility at the Kansas City International Airport, the first of as many as 20 regional assembly plants Smith Electric plans to open in the U.S.

Smith Electric Vehicles’ website is here.

State of the State: Indiana

By | Around the States, Energy | No Comments

Gov. Mitch Daniels of Indiana delivered his State of the State address on Tuesday, and we’ll declare him the winner of the Wonkiest SOS of 2010. No other governor dares a line like, “Having as many as 22 different assessors setting property values in a single county was a formula for unfairness, waste and, all too often, corruption.  Moving assessment to a single, accountable county official was a matter of simple common sense.” 

Right on!

Yet of course it was a serious speech given in serious times of economic stress and budget cutting. And, yes, Daniels did mention “industry,” if not “manufacturing” — the terms we’ve been looking for in this month’s reviews of state of state addresses. The context was the state’s recent recruiting of electric vehicle manufacturers.

When the dust settles on this recession, we will have a higher share of America’s auto, RV and steel jobs than we did before.  In a 2009 when national business investment fell by almost one-fourth, the number of new jobs committed to Indiana actually grew over the near-record year of 2008.

2009 was the year when several young companies who may lead the electric vehicle industry chose Indiana for their plants.  Many of their suppliers are following them.  Our goal is to be the capital of this potentially massive industry of tomorrow.

And the best line we’ve seen anywhere in the context of state budget crises: “Solvency, like freedom, requires eternal vigilance.  We could be Michigan in a minute of meekness, Illinois in an instant of irresolution.”

Manufacturing, the Indiana Way

By | Around the States, Economy, Energy, General | No Comments

From Think.no: “THINK fortsetter sin globale ekspansjon og kunngjør ny fabrikk i USA“: ” THINK ønsker å starte salg av THINK City i USA senere i år, og bedriften planlegger å investere 43,5 millioner dollar i bygging og montering av fasiliteter og produksjonsutstyr i Elkhart County. Fabrikken kan iverksette produksjon i første kvartal 2011.”

Governor Mitch Daniels, Think's Richard Canny, announce Elkhart site for new electric vehicle plant. (Think photo.)That’s great news!

And what it means is, per AutoBlogGreen, “Officially Official: Think will build City electric car in Elkhart, Indiana“: “After all the announcements and retractions, hints and tax abatements, it’s come to this: Think will make electric cars in Elkhart, Indiana. Think has been talking about building and selling the highway-speed Think City electric vehicle to the U.S. for quite some time and two locations in Indiana – Elkhart and nearby Middlebury – were in the running the longest to get the manufacturing facility.” See also, “Think CEO Richard Canny talks about Indiana plant deal, electric car plans for the U.S.”

Detroit News, “Think cars to be built in Indiana” “Michigan remains in the running for a planned technology center for electric car maker Think, but lost out on Tuesday to Indiana as the site of the company’s first U.S. manufacturing facility. The technology center would employ about 70 people, said Think spokesman Brendan Prebo. A decision on that facility could be made in the next three to six months. Think CEO Richard Canny was in Elkhart, Ind., Tuesday to announce the Norwegian company plans to invest $43.5 million in a former glass factory to start building the Think City electric car there in 2011.”

Indiana continues to beat out Michigan for new manufacturing investment. How does that keep happening? Well, money played a role in this specific case, as the Elkhart Truth reports, “Local, state incentives helped lure Think to Elkhart: “Financial incentives offered by state and local governments weren’t the deciding factor in bringing the electric automaker to Indiana, Think executives said, though it was part of the ‘price of entry.'”

But also look to Gov. Mitch Daniel’s more general philosophy of streamlined government, regulatory efficiency, and a favorable workforce and tax environment. (Contrast that to California’s mistakes.) And, as he said in a recent interview, “We must never walk away from the manufacturing base that’s made us strong.”

And in related news, a KPMG news release reports, “Global Automakers Will Significantly Increase Spending On New Technologies, Hybrid and Alternative Fuel Vehicles, Says KPMG Survey“: “DETROIT, Jan. 7 /PRNewswire/ — In response to consumer demand, senior automotive executives are expected to increase their investment in new technologies to produce more environmentally-friendly, fuel-efficient vehicles, according to the 11th annual global automotive survey conducted by KPMG LLP, the U.S. audit, tax and advisory firm.”