Battery Maker Boston-Power Inc. Seeks $100 Million Federal Grant for U.S. Factory

By John O'Dell June 1, 2009

A Massachusetts-based laptop battery manufacturer says it has developed a new lightweight, high-performance lithium-ion battery for plug-in hybrids and electric cars and is asking the federal government for funds to help produce it.

bostonpower175.jpg Boston-Power Inc. , a four-year-old private company that supplies batteries for Hewlett-Packard laptops, has applied for a $100 million grant to finance a 455,000-square-foot battery manufacturing plant in a vacant warehouse in Auburn, Massachusetts, about 50 miles southwest of Boston.

The company said that the state government has agreed to prove up to $9 million if the grant from the federal Department of Energy comes through.

Boston-Power executives said in a press conference this morning that the factory would be used both for the company's laptop batteries and for its new EV and plug-in hybrid batteries.

The company, which is operating on $125 million in private investment capital, said the battery factory would not be built if the federal funds, from the advanced cattery and battery cell manufacturing grant program, are not forthcoming.

Boston-Power is one of several battery makers that has proposed a U.S. factory since the government announced its intent to help finance a domestic advanced battery industry.

Like most, it has been manufacturing its lithium-ion batteries in China. The company said it would continue operating the Chinese factory whether or not it can build the Massachusetts plant.

Battery developers and automakers have raised concerns as electric vehicles have become more feasible that the absence of a domestic battery-making industry would leave the U.S. vulnerable to the policies and politics of foreign suppliers.

As a result, Congress endowed the battery manufacturing grant program as part of the $787 billion economic recovery bill, and various state governments including Michigan and Kentucky have added their own battery manufacturing grant and loan programs in hopes of attracting new industry.

Boston-Power said it is in discussions with several automakers but would not identify any, nor has the company disclosed specifics of its automotive battery technology.

John O'Dell, Senior Editor

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