A new battery maker, Sparkz, is moving ahead with plans for a new $700 million plant in Livermore, California, which promises to utilize a manufacturing process for a lithium-ion battery without using precious materials such as cobalt and nickel.
The new plant, which will employ 800, will be the first advanced manufacturing facility in the country to produce “zero-cobalt and zero-nickel” batteries, according to backers of the company, which is being supported with an investment from the State of California.
Process moves around bottlenecks
By eliminating the cobalt and nickel traditionally used in battery materials, the company’s first commercial product will reduce the cost of lithium battery production in the U.S. It will also eliminate a primary environmental concern while reducing chokepoints created by a foreign supply-chain.
“Sparkz is excited to expand its progressive power company headquarters in California and begin re-engineering the battery supply chain to compete against overseas manufacturing in energy storage,” said CEO Sanjiv Malhotra, who founded the company in 2019.
The process pioneered by Sparkz has the potential to trim costs of lithium-ion batteries used in vehicles. It also can reduce U.S. dependence on materials from foreign sources and break critical bottlenecks, which continue to threaten the production of electric vehicles in the future.
Company already lining up customers
The vertically integrated facility will manufacture cathode active material, cells and modules to be integrated into complete battery systems for its initial set of customers.
The initial phase of the new production facility has been funded by private capital matched by the California Energy Commission’s Bridge Program with additional funds from the Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development’s grant program.
“The CEC is proud to support this exciting project to manufacture cobalt-free batteries and expand California’s zero-emission vehicle manufacturing ecosystem,” said CEC Commissioner Patty Monahan. “As the state works to transition away from fossil fuels, we are committed to supporting innovators like Sparkz to bring critical new technologies to market while creating clean transportation jobs today and into the future,” she said.
While Livermore will be the international headquarters for Sparkz, the company announced plans in August to set up shop in 482,000-square foot plant in West Virginia, employing 350, for material processing and production of cells and modules.
The project will help coalfield families transition into the new energy economy in collaboration with the United Mine Workers of America. The initial phase for the project was announced with Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm and Senator Joe Manchin (D-West Virginia) in March.