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Boston Power plans battery plant for cars, laptops

With growing concern over the lack of U.S. car battery manufacturing, Boston Power says a proposed auto and laptop battery plant in Massachusetts is "shovel ready."

Battery company Boston Power thinks it can bring electric car battery manufacturing to the U.S. with some help from government stimulus funds.

The Westborough, Mass.-based company on Monday is scheduled to hold a press event in nearby Auburn where it plans to build a factory to make lithium-ion batteries for laptops and electric vehicles.

A Ford Escape modified to run with Boston Power's Swing auto batteries. Boston Power

Construction of the facility, which used to be a distribution center for a clothing retailer, is contingent on a grant from the U.S. Department of Energy's advanced battery and cell manufacturing grant program.

Boston Power has applied for $100 million in the program and has lined up $9 million in state loans, according to founder and CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud.

"The general feeling is that the stimulus money gives the investment community the shot in the arm to dare," she said.

The $2 billion advanced battery manufacturing program was established earlier this year in the stimulus act to promote development of domestic battery industry for a coming generation of electric vehicles.

Competition for the battery loan money, however, is fierce with about 160 companies said to be applying for the money. The U.S. Energy Department, which was criticized by renewable energy industries for delays, has said it expects to decide on the grants in the summer.

Four-year-old Boston Power already operates three factories in Asia to make batteries for Hewlett-Packard laptops. Those plants will serve as a "blueprint" for the Auburn facility, Lampe-Onnerud said.

It could take about three years to build the plant, which the company could start working on later this year, she said.

Swinging into auto business
Boston Power on Monday is expected to disclose the name of its auto battery, called Swing, which the company has been developing for several months. The company expects to make batteries for plug-in electric vehicles as well as all-electric cars.


Lampe-Onnerud said Swing is already being tested with well-known auto companies. The auto pack is based on the same cells used in Boston Power's laptop batteries which means that it a single manufacturing facility can turn out both.

The company decided Massachusetts would make a good location because the state offered incentives and it's close to Boston Power's research and development facility.

At Monday's press conference, five Massachusetts politicians are scheduled to speak including Gov. Deval Patrick and Secretary of Energy and Environment Ian Bowles.

A Massachusetts location could be beneficial to working with European auto industry partners, Lampe-Onnerud said. "We have an opportunity to fulfill existing markets and be neighbors to where emerging markets are being invented," she said.