Johnson Controls Inc. has opened a supersized hub for the development of advanced batteries, the technology at the heart of hybrid electric and plug-in vehicles.
Funded in part by a $299.2-million Recovery Act matching grant, the site is now the largest energy storage tech center in North America and has two components:
• A Battery Technology Center, made up of more than 46,000 square feet of labs and office space, was redesigned and re-equipped as a state-of-the-art facility to support advanced battery production. The renovation was the most extensive overhaul of the facility since 1983.
• A Battery Test Facility, built just four years ago, was expanded by 50 percent, growing from about 6,000 square feet to 9,000 square feet. Its equipment also was updated. The photo at the top of the page shows a technician analyzing lithium-ion batteries that are being subjected to extreme conditions using Thermotron test chambers.
Johnson Controls' nearly $300-million allotment of stimulus funds was the largest single grant of $2.4 billion that President Barack Obama awarded in August 2009 to push development and mass-production of electric vehicles and batteries in the United States. Forty-seven other recipients, including General Motors, lithium-ion battery maker A123Systems, Honeywell International Corp. and Navistar Inc., shared in the grant money from the U.S. Department of Energy. It was the largest investment of its kind in advanced battery technology for hybrid and electric cars.
JCI's federal award was earmarked to aid production of nickel-cobalt-metal battery cells and packs, so the company used the grant, its own funds and incentives from the state of Michigan to expand and accelerate its advanced battery program:
• In addition to the work on the battery tech and testing center, Johnson Controls added new labs at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and the University of Wisconsin-Madison in related R&D and scientific investments.
• The federal grant and $148.5 million in incentives from Michigan enabled Johnson Controls to build a lithium-ion cell and battery system manufacturing plant in Holland, southwest of Grand Rapids, in partnership with French manufacturer Saft. Johnson Controls filed legal papers to dissolve the partnership in May, but company officials told local media at the time that the move isn't expected to affect production at the facility.
JCI's Battery Technology Center and Test Facility are located at Johnson Controls' multi-Platinum, LEED-certified corporate headquarters in Glendale, Wisc. The campus is also home to the headquarters of Johnson Controls' Power Solutions business, which oversees the company's work in battery research and development, testing and manufacturing.
Johnson Controls is one of several companies whose lines of business illustrate a concept GreenBiz Group calls VERGE -- the intersection of vehicles, information, building and energy technology. The firm has a long history in building controls and management systems, automotive interiors and power storage, and increasingly has added advanced technology solutions in those areas. For example, the company's services and solutions now extend to demand response for a smarter grid and renewable energy systems.
Image from Johnson Controls.