Mount Comfort!: EnerDel to Funnel $237M Into Third Indiana Battery Plant

Battery maker EnerDel has big plans for Mount Comfort, Indiana. That’s where the company, a subsidiary of Ener1 (s HEV) said today it plans to invest $237 million leasing and equipping a new manufacturing plant for lithium-ion battery cells and packs. Federal, state and local governments have stepped up with funding for the project, expected to eventually have enough capacity to produce batteries for some 60,000 electric vehicles or 600,000 hybrids per year, according to a release from EnerDel. And the battery maker still hopes to garner another $9 million for the project through federal development programs.

Regions around the country have been vying to lure stimulus-funded battery and electric vehicle plants in recent months, hoping to see residents employed in green manufacturing jobs and spur economic growth as the nascent green car market develops. Why did EnerDel pick Mount Comfort? Two key reasons: proximity to the company’s existing facilities, a network of electric drivetrain companies and automotive workers nearby — and money.

EnerDel announced today that local authorities have put together an incentive package worth up to $69.9 million, including $48.6 million from Hancock County and $21.3 million (primarily in the form of performance-based tax credits) from the state.

According to a release from the state-run Indiana Economic Development Corp. today, the Mount Comfort facility — which will be EnerDel’s third in the state — will create an estimated 500 jobs. However, EnerDel spokesperson Rachel Carroll told us that while the company plans to generate 1,400 jobs ramping up production at its three facilities over the next 5-6 years, it is not setting hard numbers at this point for where and how it will expand.

“We’re increasing production in a modular fashion,” she explained, at first leasing only half of the Mount Comfort facility, with a two-year option to purchase the entire 423,000-square-foot plant. Over time, it “might make more strategic sense” for the company to build out capacity at one facility vs. another, she said, so the company does not want to commit to a specific plan for phasing in new jobs.

The state and local incentive packages announced today come as just the latest government boost for the battery maker. EnerDel scored a $118.5 million stimulus grant from the Department of Energy for battery manufacturing last year, and the company expects to spend $60 million of that in 2010 (the full amount has to be spent by the end of 2011). The grant also requires EnerDel to cover at least half the costs for the project, and how the company will finance its portion remains unclear at this point.

As for EnerDel’s year-old request for $480 million in low-interest loans under the DOE’s Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing program, it’s still waiting (like so many other companies in the green car space). Caroll told us today that EnerDel does not expect to win the full requested amount at this point, but rather a total of $400 million including both the $118.5 million grant and the still-pending loan.

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