Saturday, September 23, 2023
Home » News » Business » $50 Million Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing Facility Proposed for Philipsburg

$50 Million Lithium-Ion Battery Manufacturing Facility Proposed for Philipsburg

A Centre County company is partnering with a California manufacturer on plans to build a lithium-ion battery factory in Philipsburg that would be the first of its kind in Pennsylvania.

State College-based EC Power and Flux Power, of San Diego, are forming a consortium to construct the $50 million manufacturing facility, which would create up to 150 jobs, EC Power CEO Eric Rountree told the Centre County Board of Commissioners on Tuesday. Rountree gave an overview of the plans and requested a letter of support from the commissioners for a federal grant application for the project.

The companies are seeking $25 million from funding set aside for clean and green energy projects by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. EC Power and Flux Power would provide a matching $25 million.

“This particular application is for revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the energy transition, primarily coal,” Rountree said. “The entire western side of Centre County is a coal-affected area and has quite a few coal sites on it, so it’s a prime location to meet the mission of the federal money.”

Flux Power is a publicly traded company that produces batteries for lithium-ion-powered forklifts, ground support equipment for airlines and other applications. It has reached capacity at its California facility and is looking to expand to the East Coast, Rountree said.

EC Power developed and patented Thermally Modulated Cell Technology for fast-charging lithium-ion cells. The first generation of that technology made its public debut at the 2022 Winter Olympics, where it was used to power 500 buses. The company is now onto the third generation, which would be manufactured in the new facility.

“We’re coming together to form a consortium and build the facility together to manufacture both the cells, which is what EC Power’s responsibility would be, and the battery packs that then power the equipment, which would be Flux Power’s responsibility,” Rountree said.

Plans for the factory are to supply 200 megawatt hours of capacity to the Department of Defense and the materials handling industry. 

The facility would “create around 100 to 150 high-paying manufacturing jobs,” Rountree said, and help to retain talent that might otherwise leave the state.

“That would be a great thing for Centre County,” he said. “…Penn State is one of the premier locations for batteries [science and research], so they have quite a few professors focused on lithium-ion batteries at the university. But the majority of their students leave this county and go elsewhere, primarily to the West Coast where they have some [research and development] firms developing batteries. So this is a great opportunity to retain that talent in Centre County…”

A specific location in Philipsburg is still being evaluated, but Rountree noted that EC Power already has a fabrication facility in the Moshannon Valley Enterprise Center at 200 Shadylane Drive.

“We’ve been considering that area,” he said. “That’s what got us involved looking into this specific grant was finding out that we were eligible [for federal money] at that location to build out there, but we’re still scoping out the exact location. On the Flux Power side, they really don’t care where it goes. They just need an operating base out of the East Coast. We’re trying to leverage everything we have to keep it right here in Centre County.”

The companies hope to begin construction in the spring of 2024, with full build-out taking three years. But they could begin manufacturing before the build-out is complete.

“We would work from the back of the process, so we’d start with the pack manufacturing,” Rountree said. “We’d be able to bring cells from elsewhere and manufacture packs and start shipping those around the end of year two. Then we would hopefully have the cells coming online at the end of year three.”

The project aligns with strategic planning for countywide economic development, Commissioner Amber Concepcion said.

“We’ve talked about the need to build our own capacity here — not that we just need to try to recruit in firms from the outside, but being able to build from local talent and entrepreneurs who may have had connections with Penn State had their education there but then are ready to move on and do these kinds of things,” she said. “It seems like a really exciting project and really in line with the kind of strategic planning that’s been happening around economic development in Centre County.”

Commissioner Steve Dershem said he applauds the “courage” to move forward with the $50 million project.

“I think it would be fantastic if we keep all that manpower and all that education within a few miles of a major research facility,” he said.

Rountree said that, in the context of the battery industry, the proposed facility is not particularly large, but it could lead to bigger things while making Centre County the first location in Pennsylvania with a lithium-ion battery factory.

“We’re very proud to bring it here and stake our claim and showcase to the world the technology that’s been developed right here in Centre County,” he said.

Commissioners unanimously approved a letter of support for the grant proposal to establish a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Centre County. Board Chair Mark Higgins said he is reaching out to the county’s state and federal legislators to request their support as well.