The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Local Business

June 15, 2013

Madison County a high-tech hub



The batteries run around $10,000 to $12,000, which is perhaps a savings compared to some current compact car battery packs that begin at $12,000 to $15,000. Charging the Echo battery at an electricity cost of 75 cents is comparable to paying $4 for a gallon of gas, said Jason Plotke, Echo president and co-founder.

He said it’s not an anomaly the futuristic auto-technology has found a home here in Madison County.

“Echo is culminating decades of progress which has early roots in Indiana in (vehicle) electrification and battery development,” he said. For example, Bright Automotive’s intellectual property, patents, engineering data and several fully-developed prototype vehicles, which Echo bought in April.

“Taking electric motors, which have been a large part of Indiana’s heritage, and applying that power into an existing drivetrain to generate efficiency, is the premise for EchoDrive,” he said.

Supercharged batteries

A little further back in the business park is Nevada-based Altair Nanotechnologies, Inc., which moved to Anderson in 2005 and now occupies 70,000 square feet in Flagship Energy Systems Facility.

Altair’s latest project is a high-power, safer, longer-lasting battery on steroids.

The advanced lithium-ion batteries “are a very sophisticated product,” said systems product engineering director Brad Hanauer. For example, he said, it offers both quick charge and discharge and is considerably more stable than many high-capacity batteries, capable of operating between minus 40 degrees and plus 55 degrees Celsius.

Altairnano’s working on “building the (lithium ion) chemistry into different modules to serve different markets,” he said, one of which is transportation. Case in point is the Proterra, Inc. zero-emission EcoRide EV commuter bus, each of which uses 48 to 64 Altair battery modules and runs between one and three hours per 10-minute rapid charge.

In May the bus, billed by U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood as the “bus of tomorrow,” stopped in Anderson. Altair Vice President and general manager of U.S. operations, Michael Canada, said it’s “definitely an emerging technology and we’re very excited to see this happening in Anderson.”

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