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President Obama Visits Johnson Controls in Holland, Michigan

By | America's Business, Economy, Energy, Innovation, Technology | No Comments

President Obama travels to the second happiest place in the U.S. today—Holland, Michigan.  The President is in Holland to talk about jobs and visit Johnson Controls’ advanced battery manufacturing facility.  He’s scheduled to arrive around noon central time.  (It looks like video of the arrival will be streamed here.)

The facility manufactures lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles.  When it is fully up and running, it will provide 320 jobs for the community.

Did you know that lithium is the lightest metal in nature?  It is.  That’s why it’s great for batteries.  According to Johnson Controls, “Its light weight and high energy and power densities make it ideal for vehicle applications where weight affects efficiency and volume affects ease and cost of packaging.”  Enhance your knowledge about lithium-ion batteries to impress your friends here.

Building ‘Battery Boulevard’ Before Erecting Regulatory Roadblocks

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The Obama Administration believes in electric and hybrid vehicles, not just as a mode of transportation but also as an impetus for research and development, U.S. leadership in “clean energy,” and a new “green workforce.”

Prospects for the industry are promising. Crain’s Detroit Business reports “Powered by batteries: Holland area vies to be national hub for lithium-ion manufacturing,” describing the scene along a two-mile stretch of 48th Street in rural Holland (that’s western Michigan).

Battery Boulevard terminates in two new operations: The Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions Meadowbrook plant and  the LG Chem Ltd. factory, still under construction.  There’s Trans-Matic Manufacturing Co., which makes deep-drawn metal canisters, TUV SUD America, a supplier of battery testing equipment. Forty miles north, there’s the Swiss-German manufacturer, Fortu PowerCell Inc.

“It’s no longer what can be — we’re not just looking at cornfields now,” says Randy Thelen, president of Lakeshore Advantage in Zeeland, a grassroots organization credited with helping bring battery manufacturing to the Holland area. “We are looking at steel going up in the air and parking lots filled with people working at the plant, as well as contractors.”

Not bad for an industry that didn’t even exist three years ago in America — or anywhere else, for that matter.

“For all intents and purposes, the lithium-ion battery industry for transportation purposes did not exist globally anywhere three years ago,” said Eric Shreffler, sector development director of advanced energy storage for the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

Yes. Not bad at all.

So why, oh why, is the Executive Branch considering regulations that would make air shipment of lithium-ion batteries more slow and expensive, damaging the nascent U.S. industry’s global competitiveness and negating one of the Administration’s signature initiatives? Read More

Manufacturing Discussions Galore in Chicago at Reuters Event

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Reuters wraps up its three-day Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit today in Chicago. Interesting remarks abound, with a theme of recovery.

Terex looks for deals, but valuations are high: “Large equipment manufacturer Terex Corp (TEX.N) is looking to grow through acquisitions, particularly in Europe, but Chief Executive Ron DeFeo said opportunities are limited due to rich valuations.”

Navistar CEO cheered by JB Hunt buy but cautious: “(Reuters) – The top executive of Navistar International Corp (NAV.N), a U.S.-based vehicle maker, said on Tuesday he is beginning to see some signs of improvement in the hard-hit commercial truck business — though he cautioned “it’s still very tough out there.”

U.S. in ‘Nike swoosh’ recovery: Timken: “(Reuters) – The chief executive of global bearings maker Timken Co (TKR.N) feels “hopeful but cautious” about the sustainability of a U.S. economic recovery, whose shape is likely to resemble a Nike swoosh logo, CEO Jim Griffith said on Monday. ‘We believe the recovery is real,’ Griffith told the Reuters Manufacturing and Transportation Summit. ‘We believe it’s modest, and we’re running the company on the basis that there will be a slow, gradual improvement in the economy.'”

Risks rise as capex borrowing returns: PayNet CEO: “(Reuters) – Small trucking companies appear to be borrowing again to finance investment in their businesses, a sign they are gaining confidence in the economic recovery, Bill Phelan, president of PayNet, said on Monday.”

SPX CEO sees return to growth in 2011” “(Reuters) – SPX Corp (SPW.N), which is braced for a 2010 profit drop of up to 23 percent, expects to resume growth in 2011 as the aging U.S. electric grid and emerging-market recovery spurs demand for its products.”

Very impressive lineup of speakers and subjects. Congrats to Reuters.

NAM, ANSI Event on Capitol Hill about Batteries, Standards

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We pass on a news release from the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), “ANSI and NAM to Host Event for Congressional Staff on Next Generation Batteries” with the sub-hed, “UL and SAE International join as co-sponsors.”

The American National Standards Institute (ANSI) is pleased to announce that it has teamed with the National Association of Manufacturers (NAM) to co-host an upcoming event for Congressional staff on the latest innovations, standards, and conformity assessment activities that support next generation battery technology.

To be held on March 1, 2010, the event will feature expert speakers from Johnson Controls, Nissan, NASA, and the Argonne National Laboratory. Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and SAE International are serving as event co-sponsors.

American technical experts are making great advancements in battery technology that are vital to U.S. competitiveness and economic growth. Termed “next generation” batteries, these devices allow longer and faster run times, reduce dependence on other sources of energy, lessen the environmental impact of modern technologies, and lead to smaller and lighter electronics. Next generation batteries will impact nearly every industry, including solar energy, electric vehicles, wind energy, and aerospace. Standards and conformance are key to the manufacture, implementation, and interoperability of this innovative technology.

Federal Energy Grants, Promoting Battery Manufacturing

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President Obama was in Elkhart County, Ind., and Vice President Joe Biden traveled to NextEnergy, a nonprofit, in Detroit on Wednesday to promote battery development as an important piece of developing the less-polluting vehicles. From The Detroit News, “Big 3, Michigan win big in battery grants”:

Detroit — Michigan and Detroit’s Big Three automakers will receive more than $1.3 billion of $2.4 billion in federal battery and electric vehicle grants, the White House said today.

“The battle for America’s future will be fought and won in places like Elkhart and Detroit,” President Barack Obama said today at a speech in Indiana, outlining the awards that do not need to be repaid.

Five teams in Michigan will receive $966 million of the $1.5 billion in battery manufacturing grants as part of an effort to speed the introduction of mass market plug-in electric hybrid vehicles.

Funding for the 48 grants for advanced battery and electric drive projects comes from the stimulus bill, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act. The projects were selected through a competive Department of Energy process, and recipients will put up a 50 percent cost share.  The White House news release provides more details of what the grants will cover:

  •  $1.5 billion in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce batteries and their components and to expand battery recycling capacity;
  •  $500 million in grants to U.S. based manufacturers to produce electric drive components for vehicles, including electric motors, power electronics, and other drive train components; and
  •  $400 million in grants to purchase thousands of plug-in hybrid and all-electric vehicles for test demonstrations in several dozen locations; to deploy them and evaluate their performance; to install electric charging infrastructure; and to provide education and workforce training to support the transition to advanced electric transportation systems.

President Obama’s speech.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu traveled to a Mecklenberg County, N.C., factory to announce a $49 million grant for Celgard, which makes porous membranes for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries. Chu’s speech.

More news coverage…

The influx of federal money is definitely a big story in Michigan and the Detroit Area. More from the Free Press:

  • Green jobs choice led to funding bonanza — 8/6/09
  • Detroit’s TechTown is launchpad for battery plan — 8/6/09
  • Q+A: What to know about these new jobs — 8/6/09
  • Battery grants to boost Michigan’s profile, but maybe not jobs — 8/6/09
  • Senate Committee Hearing on the Domestic Automakers

    By | Economy | No Comments

    Coming up this morning, the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs holds a hearing… 


    US Senator Christopher J. Dodd
    US Senator Richard Shelby
    Ranking Member
    Title: The State of the Domestic Automobile Industry: Part II
    Date: 12/4/08
    Time: 10:00 AM
    Place: 106 Dirksen Senate Office Building
    Publication: Printable Hearing not available at this time
    Panel 1

      Mr. Gene L. Dodaro , Acting Comptroller General, United States Government Accountability Office

    Panel 2

      Mr. Ron Gettelfinger , President, International Union, United Automobile, Aerospace and Agricultural Implement Workers of America
      Mr. Alan Mulally , President and Chief Executive Officer, Ford Motor Company
      Mr. Robert Nardelli , Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, Chrysler LLC
      Mr. G. Richard Wagoner , Jr., Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, General Motors
      Mr. Keith Wandell , President, Johnson Controls, Inc.
      Mr. James Fleming , President, Connecticut Automotive Retailers Association
      Dr. Mark Zandi , Chief Economist and Cofounder, Moody’s Economy.com


    You watch the hearing online here.