Nanoramic Laboratories builds EV battery plant in Bridgeport, adds 200 jobs

Nanoramic Laboratories builds EV battery plant in Bridgeport, adds 200 jobs Main Photo

1 Dec 2023


With $47.5 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Energy, a Massachusetts electric-vehicle battery startup has chosen Bridgeport for its first major factory, which in time could employ 200 or more people.

Nanoramic Laboratories and parent company FastCap Systems have been working on energy storage systems since 2009, based on the work of researchers at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Originally focusing on "ultracapacitors" that can store and discharge electricity much faster than standard batteries, the company extended its work in 2019 to EV applications.

The grant was announced Tuesday by U.S. Sens. Chris Murphy and Richard Blumenthal, and U.S. Rep. Jim Himes, with the funding authorized under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law meant to support public transportation programs.

On Friday in Bridgeport, Gov. Ned Lamont referenced Connecticut's ongoing debate on whether to follow the lead of New York and set a date to phase out the purchase of gas-powered vehicles, saying Nanoramic's work could make that an easier sell as it helps bring better batteries to market.

"Our future is innovation," Lamont said Friday afternoon at the University of Bridgeport campus of East Hartford-based Goodwin University. "This is one of the most transformative companies in the country, deciding to locate in the great city of Bridgeport."

Under CEO Eric Kish, FastCap has reported nearly $55 million for Nanoramic from venture investors in filings with the U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, listing General Motors as among its backers. The company has yet to select a site in Bridgeport where it will build its planned factory.

In Bridgeport on Friday, Nanoramic co-founder John Cooley said the company was impressed with the pipeline of manufacturing workers in the Bridgeport area. He added his own familiarity with the state goes back to his father's days working for Raytheon predecessor, United Technologies.

"Connecticut was very responsive and very supportive," Cooley said. "It has a very unique mix and dense concentration of highly specialized manufacturing talent and engineering talent."

Nanoramic is developing lithium iron phosphate electrode technology to enable batteries that charge faster — the company says tests have demonstrated charging times of under 15 minutes — and which last longer between charges. Its Neocarbonix product does not require expensive cobalt, promising savings for electric vehicle buyers.

Nanoramic says its design also makes it easier to recycle battery components by eliminating plastic fluorinated binders used in today's batteries to glue battery material together, which require toxic solvents to strip away.

While lithium iron phosphate batteries are already in use today, developers reportedly have struggled with declining performance in freezing temperatures or on hot days. But the technology has come into widespread use in China, and U.S. automakers are interested on the promise of lower costs and the technology's promise to extend the range of vehicles as much as 30 percent.

GM has backed a California-based lithium iron phosphate battery technology startup as well, and Tesla has indicated plans to roll out the technology for its Model 3 and Model Y battery-electric vehicles, as well as an emerging line of trucks.

While Connecticut manufacturers have continued investment in their facilities, it has been rarer for companies based in other states to choose Connecticut for a major new operation. John Bourdeaux, CEO of AdvanceCT which is spearheading outreach to companies nationally, told CT Insider on Friday he expects more advanced manufacturers to relocate to Connecticut.

The DOE award was one of seven nationally, with Nanoramic the only Northeast entity to win funding. A company called MP Assets won $100 million to build a Virginia plant to produce separators that go inside lithium-ion batteries between anodes and cathodes, as a way to prevent short circuits.

Connecticut is home to one major battery startup in Cadenza Innovation, which has its main office in Danbury and with New York officials having urged the company to establish a factory there. At a late-October ceremony in Bridgeport to announce a utility-scale battery installation there, city officials asked Cadenza to consider Bridgeport as an alternative candidate for a manufacturing plant.

"We'll work with them in any way that we can — obviously it's very exciting," Mayor Joseph Ganim said Friday, referencing Nanoramic's search for a manufacturing site. “It's a wild project. I mean, it's $47 million with sustainability and workforce development — 200 jobs tied in with the University of Bridgeport. We want to continue to identify ourselves as a Northeast city for sustainability.”

A spokesperson in Lamont's office told CT Insider on Friday morning the project does not involve any additional state or municipal incentives for the Boston-based company.

Nanoramic had considered New York as a manufacturing locale, according to a 2022 summary of projects there published by the U.S. Economic Development Administration, with the company having stated previously the possibility of multiple U.S. factories.

Under the federal Inflation Reduction Act, EV battery components must be assembled in North America to qualify a vehicle for a full tax credit of $7,500 for purchasers claiming it. That has automakers scrambling to ramp up production capacity where they can find it, including GM.

"Battery cells are the constraint of the industry," said GM CEO Mary Barra, speaking in late October on a conference call with investment analysts. "The transition to EVs will have ups and downs, but ... we are going to be acting with purpose. We are going to remain agile and we are making sure we have a system that has the ability to respond to where the market is."

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