The Big Three automakers weren't the only ones who spent the week in Washington D.C. pleading their financial cases to congress. The CEO of lithium-ion battery producer Ener1 presented his equally compelling arguments for focused federal support for his portion of the industry at a technical conference there sponsored by the Electric Drive Transportation Association (EDTA). According to Charles Gassenheimer, firms like Ener1 and others gearing up to produce advanced batteries for the upcoming generation of hybrid and electric vehicles can't make the kind of strides necessary without dedicated help from dedicated government funding. Ener1 is first company to commit to producing those types of advanced lithium-ion batteries in the U.S. on a commercial scale.
According to Gassenheimer, meaningful investment is both vital and immediate if America hopes to emerge as the dominant player in this burgeoning techno arena, particularly with the Obama administration calling for a million hybrids and plug-ins to be on the road here by 2015. "We need dedicated federal support to ramp up production and drive down costs. That's already happening in China, Korea, and Japan, as well as in Europe. It needs to happen here, and it needs to happen quickly or we will miss the boat. Advanced batteries are as important to this new market as the microprocessor was to the emergence of the personal computer revolution. You can't have one without the other. Unfortunately, the U.S. manufacturing capacity is just not there today to produce them in anything approaching the numbers we need over the next few years at costs the market demands. From a technological standpoint, the future is now. We know this is going to be a multibillion-dollar market; the question is who will control it. High oil prices will be back the minute the economy begins to recover. This is not a change we can afford to put off."
Both Ford Motor Company executive chairman William Clay Ford, Jr. and General Motors chairman and CEO Rick Wagoner have made similar statements regarding the urgent need to accelerate and support all types of advanced battery technologies in order to assert leadership on the world market scene.