As of Tuesday, August 30th, Sparkz, the startup energy company, is set to open an electric battery factory in northern West Virginia.
The 482,000-square-foot (4.5-hectare) plant in Taylor County, just off Route 50 near Bridgeport, the company revealed in a statement. The company plans to build cobalt-free batteries, in an effort to bring down the cost of Lithium-ion batteries made in the United States.
The building originally held a glass factory that closed down in 2009 and will now be home to approximately 350 workers. The Democratic Republic of Congo has historically been the world’s major producer of cobalt, with most of the mines being controlled by Chinese companies.
The announcement had been made by the California-based company in March. An agreement with the United Mine Workers union was announced in May. The focus is on recruiting and training West Virginia’s dislocated mine workers. The miners will be the factory’s first production workers. Thousands of West Virginia miners lost their mining jobs and other resource extraction positions in recent years.
Sparkz was founded in 2019 and has said its first markets will likely be in material-handling vehicles, such as forklifts, energy storage, and farming equipment. The statement also included that automotive battery production would require a certification process, which would be undertaken in the near future.
The recruitment drive is already underway for the first group of employees, who then will prepare for additional worker training and manufacturing as production begins, the statement also said.
“Sparkz is excited to bring its patriotic power company to West Virginia and begin hiring coalfield families starting today. This is the perfect location to begin re-engineering the battery supply chain and to end China’s dominance in energy storage.” Sparkz founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra said in a statement.
In a move that has benefits and challenges, United States Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $3.1 billion in funding to US companies that make and recycle lithium-ion batteries.
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