The Washington Post: West Virginia coal country will test power of Democrats’ climate bill

The following article was published by Jeff Stein at the Washington Post on August 13, 2022.

CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Other opportunities are developing across the state. At a White House event last December, Sanjiv Malhotra, the chief executive of battery manufacturer Sparkz, began talking with Phil Smith, the Washington-based lobbyist for the United Mine Workers of America. Malhotra, an immigrant whose father worked at a coal mine in India, and Smith began talking about Sparkz’s interest in a new production plant to supply batteries made from more sustainable elements for agriculture and other heavy industry, with the company pitching itself as able to free America from dependence on Chinese parts.

The company started researching West Virginia, and Malhotra found a lot of what he was looking for, including a workforce still highly equipped for manufacturing, abundant water and other natural resources, and strong logistics capacities. Citing the potential of the Inflation Reduction Act’s tax credits, Sparkz is now suggesting it could hire as many as 3,000 workers there. Elswick, the former “surface blaster” at the Hobet coal mine whose father and grandfather also worked at the same mine, could be one of them. That would not offset the 40,000 coal mining jobs West Virginia has lost since 2012, but it would be a start.

“These are very proud folks who for generations were working in coal-mining and bringing energy to the United States,” Malhotra said. “Their work can be so crucial. … Bringing such folks back to a well-paying job where we can put food on the table — it’s patriotic power.”

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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.