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Joining the charge

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Electric vehicle maker throws weight behind Glendale battery plant initiative

By Bob White

By BOB WHITE

bwhite@thenewsenterprise.com

FRANKLIN – Another jolt in the push for Kentucky-made electric cars and their batteries came this week with a Kentucky-based electric vehicle manufacturer announcing its membership in the National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Batteries known as NAATBatt for short.

ZAP Motor Manufacturing Kentucky  spokesman Frank Jemley III said Wednesday it was a no-brainer for the Kentucky-based electric vehicle manufacturer to lend support to NAATBatt and the group’s collective push for a lithium-ion battery research and production campus at a Glendale industrial site.

In a big show of solidarity April 13 at the Governor’s Mansion in Frankfort , NAATBatt and state officials announced plans for a 1 million square-foot campus at a 1,551-acre state-backed industrial site in southern Hardin County. If successful, the campus could employ up to 2,000 fulltime workers earning an estimated average annual wage of $40,000.

A week earlier, Gov. Steve Beshear announced Kentucky’s partnership with Argonne National Laboratory and the state’s two main universities to create a national Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center near Lexington focused on vehicle applications.

“In short, the combination of those announcements was all we needed to hear to put our support behind NAATBatt,” Jemley said. “It’s a very exciting alliance.”

Echoing Beshear’s April 13 speech, Jemley said he hopes Kentucky will become an epicenter for domestic electric vehicles and Lithium-ion battery production.

“Those areas of technology and manufacturing are just what this country needs right now,” he said. “The economic impact of something like this could help not just Kentucky, but the entire U.S.”

Both the NAATBatt campus, which will allow its members to buy Lithium-ion products at cost, and ZMMK’s plans for a Franklin manufacturing plant for all-electric low-cost vehicles, are contingent on federal monies.

NAATBatt spokesman Jim Greenberger said April 13 the campus will need roughly $600 million to be completed. Kentucky government has pledged $200 million in infrastructural support and NAATBatt will submit an application to the Department of Energy for additional funds.

The application deadline for the $2 billion set aside for the production of advanced power-train technologies projects, such as that which NAATBatt’s proposed Lithium-ion campus could produce, is May 19.

Big name companies, such as BASF, 3M and Phillips Conoco are among the members of NAATBatt.

ZMMK is seeking $200 million from a Department of Energy loan program for its electric vehicle plant. There are about 75 applicants for the loan program which, according to Jemley, has about $25 billion available to lend for advanced technology transportation projects. The programs from which NAATBatt and ZMMK seek funds are two different pools of Department of Energy money.

ZMMK’s smalltime approach, rooting in Shepherdsville before shifting gears with its larger plans for Simpson County, may help in obtaining federal help.

With that is ZMMK’s small price when compared to proposed electric vehicle and hybrid products of the nation’s “Big Three” automakers.

“The advantage of our EVs over the competition is our relatively lowcost,” Jemley said.

ZAP cars and trucks begin at about $10,000 and max out at less than $20,000.

The Department of Energy has not released a list of the applicants, but Jemley said he is sure competing electric vehicle manufacturers are among them.

Loan distributions could begin this month, he said.

If funding is approved, ZMMK plans to build at an industrial site in Simpson County. Jemley said local government is supportive of the car manufacturer’s plans.

Automotive production could begin in as little as 18 months if the federal loan comes through, Jemley said.

A similar timeframe has been announced for NAATBatt’s advanced technology Lithium-ion batteries.

Jemley said ZMMK will be a customer of NAATBatt member products.

“There’s a great synergy between all of these projects,” Jemley said.

He said he hopes the synergy and proximity of the NAATBatt campus, Argonne’s research and development facility and the electric vehicles company will help each effort succeed in gaining federal help.

Bob White can be reached at (270) 505-1750.