Good afternoon. My name is Jim Greenberger and I am the Executive Director and founder of NAATBatt International, the trade association for developers, manufacturers and users of advanced battery technology in North America. Since 2008, NAATBatt’s mission has been to promote the manufacture of advanced batteries in the United States and the growth of the good American jobs that manufacturing will create. Today, NAATBatt has 162 corporate and institutional members representing all elements of the advanced battery supply chain.
I want to use my opening remarks to emphasize why battery technology is important to the United States. In truth, it is not because of the battery. Battery technology has been known to mankind for more than 2,000 years. For most of those 2,000 years, battery technology was a curiosity, a facilitator of magic tricks. It was not until the invention of the lead acid battery in 1859 that batteries could generate enough electricity to power major industrial processes.
We are here today because of another, more recent discovery: the lithium-ion battery, which was first commercialized in 1991. Lithium-ion batteries are high power batteries enabled by the fourth lightest element in the universe: lithium. Because of their relatively light weight and high-power density, lithium-ion batteries can provide electric power to a device located anywhere in space without the need of an electricity cord. The significance of lithium-ion batteries is that they make electric power portable in ways and at a scale that have never before been possible.
Portable electric power is the real story. Whereas 20th Century technology was largely powered by heat-based fuels, 21st Century technology will be powered by electricity. Don’t blame the battery for that. Computers, wifi and databases just don’t run very well on gasoline.
Many people believe that the move to electric vehicles is driven solely by concerns about climate change. That is not true, though reducing carbon emissions is a very nice side benefit. The electrification of vehicles has been going on for 50 years. It started with power locks and power windows, moved on to heated seats and navigation systems, and is now working its way into the vehicle drivetrain. Vehicles are simply becoming computers on wheels. It is the natural progression of 21st Century technology.
Since the beginning of NAATBatt we have warned that “he who makes the batteries will one day make the cars.” That is a big deal considering that vehicle manufacturing employs about 1 million Americans and, when you consider indirect employment, it is the second largest employer of Americans after healthcare.
But even that undersells the importance of lithium batteries. We already know that lithium batteries will enable future cars, buses, drones, consumer devices, medical devices, monitoring systems, renewable energy systems, aircraft and high-power weapons systems. What we don’t know is what other technologies they will also power in 2040 and 2050.
I will conclude my opening remarks with a question: What do the following five major U.S. companies have in common: Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple? The answer: None of them make semiconductors. Yet I will tell you to the point of virtual certainty that had U.S. companies, entrepreneurs and workers not dominated semiconductor and computer hardware manufacturing in the 1960’s, ‘70’s and 80’s, while Microsoft, Google, Facebook, Amazon and Apple all might exist today, they would not have developed or be headquartered in the United States.
This is the challenge we face today with lithium-ion batteries. The difference is that unlike the semiconductor industry of the 1960’s, ‘70’s and 80’s, in lithium-ion battery manufacturing U.S. companies and U.S. workers are starting out 10 years behind our economic competitors and strategic rivals. We need to catch up, and we need to catch up quick.
I will reserve my thoughts on how we can catch up and win in the competition for lithium battery technology for the general discussion. Thanks for your attention.