U.S. spending $2 billion to challenge Asia on laptop battery manufacturing

Boston-Power Inc. CEO Christina Lampe-Onnerud is ready to build a laptop battery factory in China. The plans are already drawn. But if her firm can get several hundred million dollars out of the recently approved $787 billion federal stimulus bill, she will take those plans and instead build the factory somewhere in the U.S.

The facility, over time, would support up to 10,000 jobs — workers whose jobs are either with the company or are part of its supply chain.

If Boston-Power gets federal support to build its factory, “in principal, we would be able to compete with the leading Japanese manufacturers very, very quickly,” said Lampe-Onnerud, whose Westborough, Mass.-based firm makes a long-life, lithium-ion battery. “I think it is an interesting time to be a small company.”

Boston-Power says it would deliver batteries that can charge to 80% power in 30 minutes and offer “like-new” performance in a laptop for three years. In December, Hewlett-Packard Co. said it plans to start offering lithium-ion batteries in its laptops this year.

One of the larger chunks of money that the U.S. is planning to spend on technology — $2 billion — will go to the battery industry for manufacturing facilities.

The U.S. is hoping to build a battery manufacturing industry, which supplies the automotive and electronics industries, in the U.S. — largely from scratch. Battery manufacturing is now centered in Asia.

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