Forbes: Electric Vehicle Battery Production May Lead To Coal Country’s Return

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.”

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Founder & CEO

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra

Dr. Sanjiv Malhotra is the founder and CEO of Sparkz—the battery start-up reinventing the energy supply chain.


Malhotra has been a leader in the energy sector for nearly three decades as a founder, investor and executive. Most recently, he served as the inaugural director for the Energy Investor Center at the U.S Department of Energy (DOE), serving under both Democratic and Republican administrations.


At DOE, Malhotra led the Obama Administration’s initiative to boost public-private partnerships to accelerate the commercialization of technologies developed in national research centers like Oak Ridge National Labs.


Malhotra was recruited to the Department of Energy after a successful exit of Oorja Protonics—the world leader in methanol fuel cells—which he founded and led as CEO for 10 years. Oorja raised $50 Million in equity financing from leading VCs such as Sequoia, DAG Ventures, Artis Capital and others during his tenure. He boosted Oorja’s revenue and profitability growth, while expanding operations globally in Japan, China, South Africa, Mexico, and India.


Oorja was acquired in 2014 by the Private Equity firm MinXing Growth Fund.


As an investor and consultant, Malhotra has worked at leading venture capital firms, including Kleiner Perkins Caufield and Byers as an advisor on clean energy and advanced materials.


Earlier in his career, Malhotra led the engineering and product development team at H Power, a pioneer in hydrogen fuel cells. As part of the management team, he managed the successful IPO, which raised more than $100 million in August 2000.


He began his career as a post-doctoral fellow at the renowned Lawrence Berkeley National Labs on electrochemical storage systems. Dr. Malhotra has authored seven patents and more than 40 publications in various fields of energy storage technology and materials. He holds a PhD in chemical engineering and an M.B.A from University of Iowa.