US battery manufacturer Sparkz has announced that it will begin construction in 2022 of a Gigafactory in West Virginia to commercialise its zero-cobalt battery. The Gigafactory will initially employ 350 workers recruited from the (ex) coal mining industry.
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The move aligns with US President Biden’s mission to secure a US-owned EV manufacturing supply chain. Sparkz makes it clear who they consider their competitor on the global market: “Sparkz will begin workforce development partnership with United Mine Workers of America this year, break ground on GigaFactory in 2022 to compete against China.”
Sparkz had appeared earlier this year with the announcement that they were opening a solid-state battery plant in California. The necessary funding came from a grant from the California Energy Commission in 2021. Interestingly, the Virginia plant announcement was attended by state Senator Joe Manchin, who is known to have intricate ties to the coal industry and has fought extensively against environmental protection laws and technologies.
“Sparkz is re-engineering the battery supply chain by eliminating cobalt and setting our sights on making other battery components in America to end China’s dominance,” says founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra, adding: “The Biden Administration’s efforts to support economic revitalisation in energy communities is extremely important for workers and job creators like us as we scale to full commercial production.”
Update 01 September 2022
Sparkz has found a location for the factory announced above. The US battery manufacturer has signed an agreement to produce its zero-cobalt battery in Taylor County, West Virginia, eventually employing 350 workers. The facility was originally a glass plant that ceased production in 2009.
Located in Bridgeport, West Virginia, the available industrial space measures approximately 482,000 sqft or 44,7793 sqm. Sparkz says this is enough to ultimately scale to a production capacity of 15 GWh/year.
The site announcement accelerates plans to recruit, hire and train new employees through a partnership with the United Mine Workers of America. The recruitment drive for the first ten or so employees has already begun, Sparkz said. This first cohort will be responsible for scaling the site location, preparing it for manufacturing and training the next 30-50 employees as production begins.
Founded by former US Department of Energy executive Sanjiv Malhotra in 2019, Sparkz claims its zero cobalt battery offers twice the energy density compared to other zero cobalt batteries (Lithium Iron Phosphate or LFP) being produced predominantly in China.
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