Electric battery maker to set up plant in North WVa


CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Energy startup SPARKZ announced Tuesday that it will be setting up an electric battery plant in northern West Virginia.

The batteries will be built at a 482,000 square foot (4.5 hectare) factory in Taylor County off U.S. Route 50 near Bridgeport, the company said in a statement. The factory, which will eventually employ 350 workers, was originally a glassworks that ceased operations in 2009.

The plant will produce cobalt-free batteries, an effort to reduce the cost of producing lithium-ion batteries in the United States. The Democratic Republic of Congo has always been the world’s largest producer of cobalt, with most mines controlled by Chinese companies.

In March, the Livermore, Calif.-based company announced plans to build the plant. An agreement with the United Mine Workers union was announced in May to recruit and train dislocated miners to become the plant’s first production workers. West Virginia has lost thousands of jobs in mining and other resource extraction industries in recent years.

The company, which was founded in 2019, said its first markets are likely to be material handling vehicles such as forklifts, agricultural equipment and energy storage. He added that batteries for the automotive market, which require a certification process, will be out of the factory in the near future.

A recruiting drive has begun for the first batch of employees, who will then gear up for additional worker training and manufacturing at the start of production, according to the statement.

“SPARKZ is thrilled to bring its patriotic power company to West Virginia and begin hiring coalfield families starting today. This is the perfect place to start revamping the powerhouse chain. battery supply to end China’s dominance in energy storage,” Founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra said in the statement.

Earlier this year, US Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm announced $3.1 billion in funding for US companies that manufacture and recycle lithium-ion batteries.

“Engaging our strong and skilled workforce here in West Virginia to manufacture batteries domestically is critical to our energy independence and stability,” said U.S. Senator Joe Manchin of West Virginia. “The Sparkz plant will create 350 well-paying, long-term jobs, and I look forward to seeing this initiative grow. We will continue to work closely to bring battery manufacturing here to the United States so that we do not have to depend on foreign supply chains for our energy needs.

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