Battery technology progresses on a daily basis, but lithium-ion tech still has a place in many consumer electronic gadgets and electric-powered cars. And that’s why a consortium of fourteen US companies is lobbying for a billion-dollar aid package to help them build new factories.
And the reason behind this request? So they can “catch up to Asian rivals that are far ahead” in making batteries with Li-ion tech. Apparently more than four dozen battery manufacturing plants are under construction in China alone, while the US currrently has none under construction. Specifically, the group intends to make batteries for hybrid and all-electric cars.
It seems that the low-margin business hadn’t attracted much US business attention in the past, but now that reliable rechargeables are becoming an ever-vital part of modern life, the consortium–going under the name of National Alliance for Advanced Transportation Battery Cell Manufacture–worries its member’s lack of historic investment will leave it lagging too far behind.
Dare we compare this situation to that faced by the rest of the automobile industry? Yes, I think we dare. But does it make economic sense to “bail out” the battery-makers, rather than relying on imports of the technology that, if past trends are anything to go by, may end up being cheaper? That’s a rather different question: the auto industry is large and employs many already, while the battery-makers are asking for an aid to expansion. Tricky.
My imagination is already playing out future international tensions based on who imports more batteries from whom.