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Next-Gen Battery Maker Sparkz, United Mine Workers of America Announce Labor-Management Agreement

The following article was published by UMWA on May 24, 2022.



The “memorandum of understanding” is the first step toward establishing one of the largest climate-tech workforce partnerships in US history


CHARLESTON, W.Va.–SPARKZ, the next-generation battery manufacturer re-engineering the battery supply chain, and the United Mine Workers of America announced today they have signed a memorandum of understanding establishing a labor-management agreement that would mark one of the largest climate-tech union workforce partnerships in the United States.

SPARKZ announced in March it will begin construction in 2022 of a Gigafactory in West Virginia to commercialize their zero-cobalt battery which will initially employ 350 workers and could grow to as many as 3,000.

“SPARKZ is proud to partner with the United Mine Workers of America to help West Virginia workers become part of the new energy economy while re-engineering the battery supply chain domestically,” said SPARKZ founder and CEO Sanjiv Malhotra.  “This partnership is a symbol of American innovation and American workers literally building our energy future together and fighting to end China’s dominance of advanced batteries.”

SPARKZ and the United Mine Workers of America will partner to recruit and train dislocated miners to be the first group of production workers to be hired into the facility. SPARKZ will be focused on creating a strong and diverse workforce capable of competing against foreign batteries made in China and securing the supply chain.

“This agreement is a win-win for the laid-off coal miners who will work in this facility, their families and their communities,” UMWA International President Cecil E. Roberts said. “We have lost thousands of mining jobs over the last decade in West Virginia. This is a first step to putting some of those people back to work in good, well-paying, family-sustaining jobs. We look forward to working with SPARKZ to build on this initiative as traditional energy workers meet the challenges of the ongoing energy transition.”

U.S. Senator Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), who serves as Chairman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee and was part of the initial announcement of the SPARKZ facility located in West Virginia, said, “For generations, West Virginia’s brave coal miners have powered our nation to greatness and partnerships like the one between the SPARKZ and the United Mine Workers of America is proof that there is an important role for them to play in our nation’s energy transition. You will not find a harder worker than a coal miner and I am confident this partnership will serve SPARKZ well as they continue to invest in West Virginia and climate technologies that enable us to reduce our reliance on foreign supply chains.”

“DOE is thrilled to support the battery manufacturing industry and labor partners coming together to solve clean energy deployment challenges, like workforce development,” said U.S. Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm. “Momentum is building as more companies see that partnering with labor is smart business strategy and key to accelerating an equitable clean energy transition.”


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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.