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Honeywell's Local Lab to Benefit From Grant
By Matt Glynn
May 24, 2010
As interest grows in lithium-ion batteries for hybrid and electric vehicles, Honeywell International's Buffalo laboratory will play a key supporting role in advancing the battery technology.
The Peabody Street site will benefit from a $54 million joint investment by the federal government and Honeywell in producing electrolyte salt, a critical component of lithium-ion batteries.
The U.S. Energy Department announced last summer that Honeywell was chosen for a $27.3 million matching grant for the project.
Honeywell will invest an equal amount, and the company Monday marked the signing of an agreement with the Energy Department for the work.
The project will provide a boost to the Peabody Street location, which employs about 135 people and has earned a reputation as a research and development hub since opening 55 years ago. Six permanent jobs will be created to handle the new work. A "sample plant" will be built in the "pilot" plant, where LiPF6 will be tested to ensure it meets customer requirements and determine when it is ready for mass production.
Honeywell will likely build a full-scale production plant for the electrolyte salt in Illinois, said Jay Kelly, the site leader. The Buffalo location focuses on research and development.
Most of the combined $54 million in federal and Honeywell funds will be spent on the full- scale production plant, "but there will be a significant portion of that spent here in Buffalo, both for construction and operation of the sample plant," Kelly said. He did not specify a dollar amount.
Honeywell expects to become the first domestic supplier of LiPF6, which it will sell to battery makers, Kelly said.
The Buffalo site is credited with creating a way to make the highest purity LiPF6 with the least amount of waste.
Construction of the sample plant is expected to start later this year, and it should be fully operational in the first quarter of next year, Kelly said.
The $27.3 million federal grant comes from stimulus funds.
The federal government is committing $2 billion to support the development of advanced electric drive vehicles to help cut fuel consumption and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Those vehicles will require batteries that are small, lighter and more efficient.
Lithium-ion batteries already are used in everything from laptops and cameras, to cell phones and power tool
The Chevrolet Volt and Nissan Leaf, two all-electric vehicles due in showrooms later this year, will use those types of batteries.
"It is expected that the future of electric cars will be driven by lithium-ion batteries because they have the ability to a very large charge of electricity," Kelly said.
The Buffalo laboratory has established a reputation for creativity, said Andreas Kramvis, president and chief executive officer of Honeywell Specialty Materials, a $4.1 billion business segment of New Jersey-based Honeywell.
"What the people and the scientists in this lab have achieved is remarkable," Kramvis said.
Scientists at the site have come up with other product solutions that do not add to global warming and do not deplete the ozone layer, he said.
The Buffalo lab holds 530 active-use patents and has 950 applications pending, Kramvis said.
Rep. Brian Higgins, D-Buffalo, said those statistics bode well for the economy, since commercialization of that work produces jobs and new business investment.
The Energy Department received more than 250 proposals for projects related to advanced battery electric drive manufacturing and deployment of electric vehicles.
It selected 48 recipients, including Honeywell, said Tien Duong of the department's Office of Vehicle Technologies.
Duong said Honeywell's project is essential in helping create a domestic lithium-ion battery industry.
The project brings together innovative battery materials, a viable customer base and private sector resources, he said.
Local leaders at Monday's event also praised Honeywell for taking an active role in a cleanup of the Buffalo River and for supporting community projects.