Would a $50M Lithium-ion Battery Factory Help Revitalize Philipsburg, Retain Talent?

May 31, 2023
Flux Power, which produces batteries for lithium-ion powered GSE and other applications, has reached its capacity in California, and is looking to expand to the east coast by forming a consortium with EC Power.

May 30—A $50 million lithium-ion battery factory is proposed for Philipsburg and would be the first such factory in the state.

EC Power, research and development firm headquartered in State College, is forming a consortium with Flux Power, a company in California, to build a $50 million lithium-ion battery factory in Philipsburg. Eric Rountree, CEO at EC Power, gave the Centre County board of commissioners an overview of the project during their meeting Tuesday and asked for their support in applying for a $25 million federal grant.

"We're going after funds that have been set aside by the federal government through the Building Infrastructure Law for clean and green energy," Rountree said. "This particular application is for revitalizing communities that have been impacted by the energy transition, primarily coal. The entire western side of Centre County is a coal-affected area and has quite a few coal sites on it, and so it's a prime location to meet the mission of the federal money."

If awarded the grant, the two companies will match the funds.

Flux Power produces batteries for lithium-ion powered forklifts and ground support equipment for airlines and other applications, Rountree said. The company has reached their capacity in California, he said, and is looking to expand to the east coast. EC Power focuses on Thermally Modulated Cell Technology, according to its website.

At the plant, EC Power intends to commercialize the third generation of a new technology for lithium-ion batteries it invented, he said. The technology made its public debut last year at the Winter Olympics, where it powered 500 buses.

"We've been working on plans for about a year to make 200 megawatt hours of capacity of these types of batteries. And we've been working with the Department of Defense to generate customers for that, along with the material handling industry. And so Flux Power has tentatively agreed to buy all of that initial supply," Rountree said. They'll build the facility together to manufacture both the cells and battery packs, which then power the equipment.

Penn State is one of the "premier locations" for batteries, Rountree said, but the majority of students leave Centre County for jobs after graduation. Having this factory a short drive from the university is a great opportunity to retain talent and create about 100-150 high-paying manufacturing jobs in the area, he said.

Commissioner Steve Dershem agreed and applauded their efforts.

"I think it'd be fantastic to keep all that manpower and all that education within a few miles of a major research facility," Dershem said.

The project is in line with the strategic planning that's been happening around economic development in Centre County, Commissioner Amber Concepcion said.

"...We've talked about the need to build our own capacity here. Not just that we need to try to recruit in firms from the outside, but being able to build from local talent and entrepreneurs, who may have had connections with Penn State, had their education there, but then are ready to move on and do these kinds of things," Concepcion said.

This would be the first such factory in Pennsylvania. They're still scoping out the exact location for the factory in Philipsburg. Construction would start in the spring of 2024 and would take three years to build out.

" EC Power already has a fabrication facility ... on Shadylane Drive in Phillipsburg. And so we've been considering that area. I mean, that's what got us involved in looking into this specific grant was finding out that we were eligible at that location to build out there, but we're still scoping out the exact location," Rountree said.

The board approved a letter of support for the grant proposal to establish a lithium-ion battery manufacturing facility in Centre County. The board also approved a letter of support for an ARC grant application that would be used to build the High Point Skate Park in State College.


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