The following article was published by Ken Silverstein at Forbes on September 8, 2022.
The electric battery maker SPARKZ announced the location of a factory it will build in West Virginia — the byproduct of the Inflation Reduction Act. The plant will produce storage devices with no cobalt, a raw material mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and processed in China.
The move is a harbinger of what is to come — the domestic mining of essential raw elements and building batteries in the United States. The 482,000-square-foot factory in Bridgeport, W.V. will initially employ 350 people. The California-based battery producer said it has an agreement with the United Mine Workers to hire and train idled workers, marking what could become coal country’s turnaround.
To start, the factory will build batteries that go into forklifts and farm equipment and those used for energy storage that harnesses electrons and releases them later. But over time, the plant will gear up for an expected boom in the electric vehicle market. EVs now make up about 2% of cars worldwide. But the Bank of America says it could be as high as 25% in 2025 and 50% in 2030 in the U.S.
“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 to end China’s dominance in energy storage,” says Chief Executive Sanjiv Malhotra, on August 30. “These folks are highly trained when it comes to safety. Safety is paramount in the mining sector, and safety is very important as we are looking at manufacturing batteries.”