Worker in a cleantech lab.

Next-Generation Batteries: How New York State is Recharging the Clean Energy Industry

Former corporate campus transforms into next epicenter for groundbreaking battery research, innovation

Building a better battery with more storage and a longer shelf life has long been the goal of traditional battery research. But to develop and mass produce batteries that are greener and more affordable takes the kind of supercharged effort that’s underway in New York State.

In the state’s Southern Tier, the development of new battery technology for electric vehicles and energy storage – fueled by innovative support and partnerships – has contributed to a larger cleantech boom throughout the region that advances Governor Cuomo’s plan to make New York’s electricity 100 percent carbon neutral by 2040.

Worker in a cleantech lab.

The latest advancement, a consortium called Imperium3 (iM3) New York, brings together three of the region’s clean energy businesses to research, develop and manufacture lithium-ion batteries on a grand scale in Broome County. Lightweight, rechargeable and more affordable to produce, lithium-ion batteries can store significantly more energy than traditional lead-acid batteries and rechargeable ones. They also hold their charge much longer over time.

When complete, the new gigafactory will be the state’s first and largest lithium-ion battery operation and will supply the next-generation of electric vehicles and energy storage systems for homes, businesses and across the grid.

Based on patented ideas developed by Binghamton University startup Charge CCCV (C4V), one of the consortium partners, the plant will be the first of three Imperium3 gigafactories built worldwide. In New York, the impact will be significant. Consortium leaders have pledged more than $130 million to a plan that will not only revitalize the former IBM Huron Campus in Endicott but will also create at least 230 new jobs  over the next five years. Shailesh Upreti, Imperium3 chairman and CEO of C4V, is optimistic that once the facility is operational it could require as many as 1,800 employees.

But before the facility became a reality, Upreti spent a decade researching ways to make lithium-ion batteries lighter, more efficient and longer lasting while at Binghamton University, a leading battery development center with top-notch technical staff.

“New York State’s significant investment in Binghamton to develop state-of-the-art research facilities meant that we could solve applied science and technology issues in rapid mode, and that directly led to where we are today: building gigafactories,” Upreti says.

Imperium3 lithium-ion batteries

Imperium3 lithium-ion batteries are set to supply the next-generation of electric vehicles and energy storage systems.

 

His company’s breakthroughs in battery design went on to win a coveted $500,000 prize from the state’s first annual 76West competition in 2016, another critical piece of the startup’s swift evolution.

“Right after 76West, we started building a local supply chain, which taught us a lot,” he says. “That quickly led to a globally active supply chain consisting of some 50 companies, which gave us the confidence and connections to find the right partners to form a consortium like iM3.”

Upreti explained that any of iM3’s future gigafactories built in other countries will also be licensed through the New York consortium, potentially bringing additional revenue from several countries to the region.

In 2017, New York State awarded iM3 performance-based incentives totaling $7.5 million, including a $4 million Upstate Revitalization Initiative grant.

After acquiring a lithium-ion battery manufacturing operation in another state last year, iM3 is in the process of relocating the equipment and materials to the Huron campus.

According to Upreti, plenty of existing regional New York businesses will also benefit from the factory, including those making plastic parts, metal recyclers and systems integrators such as electric/hybrid bus and forklift manufacturers.

“The gigafactory will have a ripple effect across our entire supply chain as those companies build out their infrastructures to meet demand, boosting our green tech cluster here in the Southern Tier,” he says.

SungEel MCC Americas, LLC, or SMCC, announced last September that it would establish a North American presence at a $23 million recycling facility for recycling lithium-ion batteries, also on the Huron Campus. SMCC is a partnership between South Korean recycling company SungEel HiTech and Metallica Commodities Corp., an e-recycler and broker based in White Plains, N.Y.

Beyond its importance to the green economy in New York, iM3 is also a green operation, something Upreti takes very seriously.

“It is our biggest selling point,” he says. “By employing innovative processes and with our knowledge of material science we have been able to develop technologies that significantly reduce toxins as well as our overall carbon footprint throughout our manufacturing process. On top of that, we take this standard all the way to the mining of the lithium and other material; this is the only way to create a sustainable, scalable model for the sunrise industries of tomorrow.”

To learn more about New York’s nation-leading commitment to clean energy, please visit: https://esd.ny.gov/cleantech

For more about New York State’s support for energy storage technology visit: https://www.ny-best.org