Springboro EV battery plant charged up for the future

A resurrected electric vehicle battery plant in Springboro is adding production capacity and could see employment double in coming months, John Warner, the chief customer officer of American Battery Solutions, said Monday.

About 30 workers are employed at the former Robert Bosch Battery Systems plant on Ovonic Way today, Warner said, nearly three years after the plant had been shut down altogether.

The Lake Orion, Mich.-based American Battery Solutions (ABS) designs and makes modular and scalable lithium-ion batteries for mobility, industrial and commercial markets in North America and Europe. The business has more than 300,000 square feet of battery manufacturing, testing and development facilities in Michigan, Ohio and Massachusetts — with more than half of that space in Springboro.

“I think we’ll easily look to double and triple, potentially, the capacity here by the end of year,” Warner said.

Gov. Mike DeWine visited the Springboro plant Monday as the company celebrated its relaunch.

The company’s strategy of steering clear of batteries for automotive electric batteries is paying off, say Warner and Subhash Dhar, ABS chairman and chief executive.

Instead, Dhar said he sees his customer base in “underserved” markets, such as busses, trucks, delivery vans, industrial vehicles and even golf carts.

The next 12 to 18 months will be crucial as the company nails down contracts with customers Warner declined to name Monday. But he noted ABS has won recent contracts with a boat producer and others.

“Everything outside automobiles” is growing, Warner said. “One of the things we’ve seen is because the auto industry has pushed so hard — and they’ve driven the cost down and made it so viable — it’s become a viable solution for all these other applications.”

So now a variety of transportation companies “have a solid business case to convert to electric,” he added.

ABS in 2019 bought manufacturing and testing assets from Robert Bosch Battery Systems, including the 170,000-squre-foot automotive battery plant at 50 Ovonic Way, a cul-de-sac off North Pioneer Boulevard in Springboro.

At the time of that investment, Bosch had been laying off workers, including 74 workers from the Springboro plant in early 2016. The plant under its previous ownership closed in 2019.

That was the year Subhash Dhar started his company with former auto industry colleagues.

He told a Detroit TV station in late 2021, “I put together a team of about 12 people in a hotel room.”

Dhar told the station his customer base is not the Detroit Big 3 automakers, “because our business model is not to go after passenger cars.”

“We are excited to have the highly experienced manufacturing team join our world-class battery professionals and automotive experts together with world-class development and manufacturing facilities,” Dhar said of the acquisition of the Springboro plant in 2019. “ABS will focus on the middle of the spectrum of battery systems value chain, concentrating on module production, pack assembly, and customer integration.”

This appears to be a fast-growing market segment. Elsewhere in the Dayton area, Ohio officials are hoping another electric vehicle battery company will create nearly 1,200 new jobs.

SEMCORP Manufacturing USA LLC could create 1,199 full-time positions, generating $73 million in annual payroll if the company establishes a manufacturing presence in the Shelby County community less than an hour north of Dayton, officials from Ohio and the city of Sidney said last week.

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