Friday, June 17, 2011

LithChem battery company doubles space, employees

by Peter Key

"A developer of lithium-ion battery technology has more than doubled its space and nearly doubled its head count here in the past year and a half.

Energy has increased the amount of space it occupies in a former chemical plant to 18,000 square feet from 8,000 feet. The increase has given it more lab space and room to set up assembly lines if it can get money to fund them.

The subsidiary of Anaheim, Calif.-based Toxco Inc. was hoping to have about 24,000 square feet, including a clean room, developed by now. It has put plans for the clean room on hold, although it still hopes to be able to build a room with very low humidity so its employees won’t have to do as much work in glove boxes.

LithChem now employs 15 at the site, up from eight a year and a half ago. It plans to add more as needed, which it hopes will be soon.

LithChem was founded in the late 1990s as a joint venture between Novis Smith, its vice president of technology, and Toxco to develop a process for making salts and electrolytes for lithium-ion batteries. It then started developing batteries that used the electrolytes and finally decided to go into manufacturing.

Except for the money put into it by Toxco, LithChem has gotten nearly all its funding from federal grants under the Small Business Innovation Research program, which helps small businesses develop and commercialize new technology.

The company has used a $2.43 million Phase III SBIR grant it got from the Defense Department as an earmark when Joe Sestak represented its congressional district to fund the development of batteries for interceptor missiles. It has gotten a few small contracts added on to the SBIR grant and hopes to use them to get a production line set up over the next two months so it can make prototypes of the batteries that can be tested outdoors.

LithChem also is working on a less-expensive, more automated way of making rechargeable lithium-ion batteries, funded in part by a $985,000 contract it was awarded by the Defense Logistics Agency in December. The company thinks the process can be used to produce batteries that cost less than current rechargeable lithium-ion batteries for the Defense Department, which is why the DLA is interested in it.

LithChem also hopes to show the process can be used to make batteries for electric cars, which are potentially a huge market.

In an analysis of the lithium-ion battery market it put out in April, Seoul, South Korea-based Samsung SDI Co. Ltd. said it expects electric vehicles will comprise 7 percent of the global car market by 2015 and 17 percent by 2020. Samsung, which is the world’s largest rechargeable battery maker, expects the overall market for lithium-ion batteries to nearly triple to $32 billion in 2015 from $11 billion last year.

“The automotive industry … is going to fuel that growth,” said Visal Sapru, a research manager in energy and power systems for global consulting and research firm Frost & Sullivan, which predicts the global market for lithium-ion batteries will hit $30 billion to $35 billion by 2016.

LithChem also is developing ultra-capacitors for electric cars."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.