Kentucky landed its first major tenant Wednesday at a battery research laboratory in Lexington as the state that ranks third nationally in auto production jockeys for a prominent role in developing next-generation vehicles.
NOHMs Technologies Inc. announced it will locate research, product development and manufacturing operations at the Kentucky-Argonne Battery Manufacturing Research and Development Center. The company plans to invest more than $5.3 million in the project and create up to 162 jobs.
"This move and the facilities here will enable our company to move a lot faster to ... fully develop and commercialize our products," said Nathan Ball, CEO of NOHMs.
The company, founded in 2010 in upstate New York, plans to commercialize its lithium-sulfur batteries that it touts as having wide-reaching applications from spacecraft to cellphones. The company believes its batteries can deliver enough energy at a cost low enough to jump-start demand for electric vehicles.
"If we can simultaneously double the energy and reduce the cost, we can power the next generation of military products and cellphones and enable a company like Toyota to make electric cars that are more cost-effective to buy and to drive than gasoline cars," Ball said.
The company's Kentucky operations will be at the Spindletop research site in Lexington. The battery research laboratory is a joint venture involving scientists from the University of Kentucky, the University of Louisville and Argonne National Laboratory in Chicago.
The company's operations will be a short distance from Toyota's production plant at Georgetown and about an hour from Ford's two auto production plants in Louisville.
Battery makers also have set up operations in Michigan near that state's auto plants.
Kentucky is the nation's third-leading auto producer, behind Michigan and Ohio. Gov. Steve Beshear's office said last month the state was on pace to produce about 290,000 more vehicles in 2013 than it did a year ago, when production surpassed 1 million and was the highest output in the Bluegrass state in five years.