Henderson, Nev. — Lithium-ion battery separators aren't a new product for Entek Manufacturing Inc. The company has been making them from polyethylene using a "wet" process with a proprietary nonchlorinated solvent since 2001.
The company had primarily supplied electric vehicles made in China, which has been an early adopter of EVs. When the Chinese government altered rules to severely limit the ability of non-Chinese companies to compete, however, Entek saw its demand drop.
Then in 2022, with automakers rapidly investing in EV manufacturing in the U.S. — and the federal Bipartisan Infrastructure Law setting aside funding to support the growth of parts for EVs — Entek saw its chance, said CEO Larry Keith.
Its team scrambled to complete a bid for part of a federal grant program to finance battery production, winning $1.2 billion that will go toward two separator film production sites.
The first will be in Indiana, with a $1.5 billion plant expected to go into production by 2025 and a second plant to follow in Alabama. The exact location hasn't been set for either plant, Keith said, but the Indiana site likely will be near Terre Haute.
Entek has signed an agreement with Germany's Brückner Maschinenbau GmbH & Co. KG to supply 18 biaxially oriented film lines for the Indiana plant, he said. That facility will begin with 10 lines.