Quallion, maker of lithium-ion batteries for heavy and stationary trucks, is looking for a piece of the growing advanced battery pie. For now, it’s applying for $9 million in grants from the California Energy Commission to get its technology off the ground, with an eye on the $2 billion in stimulus funds the Department of Energy has allocated for battery development.
Based in Sylmar, Calif., the company will only be eligible for state funds if it qualifies for DOE support as well. It should know by July if it has made the cut, and would receive the money in September. Government support will be vital for the company to achieve its expressed goals, namely a $20 million battery factory planned for southern California. The facility would produce 20,000 5-kilowatt-hour batteries every year by 2012. For the project to be feasible, the DOE will need to pick up at least 50 percent of the price tag, Quallion says, claiming the plant would create 500 construction jobs and 2,350 long-term manufacturing jobs.
Like many other states — notably Michigan, Oregon, New York and Indiana — California is doing what it can to attract battery makers and the jobs and stimulus funds that follow. While the state government set aside $175 million for renewable fuel and vehicle technology programs, only a fraction is going to battery companies. Other states have taken much more drastic measures to lure major players in the battery space. Michigan passed more than $400 million in tax credits for battery companies like A123 Systems to set up shop there, and Oregon is looking to establish its own tax credit system.
Quallion, in particular, is focused on batteries for military and medical vehicles, with some applications in aerospace technology. The company says its offerings should impact Californian vehicle operators in particular due to the state’s tough anti-idling laws, which prohibit trucks from being left idle to power electronics, air conditioning and heat systems. Offenders are dinged anywhere between $300 and $10,000 for violations. If more stationary vehicles use lithium-ion batteries, emissions won’t be an issue.
If the plant is successfully built, and its products well-received, Quallion says it will adopt its technology for use in a wider variety of vehicles, including heavy-duty trucks and passenger cars.