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BASF starts electric car battery materials production in Elyria

ELYRIA, Ohio — Hoping to make materials that could put large numbers of drivers in electric cars within the next few years, German chemicals giant BASF opened a new Northeast Ohio plant Tuesday.

Built in Elyria on the site of Harshaw Chemical Co.’s original 1892 facility on Pine Street, the plant will make nickel-metal-cobalt cathode materials for lithium-ion batteries used in electric vehicles and hybrids. Company officials said the plant could make those cars economically viable within a few years.

“This area now has an opportunity to lead the world in specialty materials for advanced energy,” Frank Bozich, president BASF’s catalysts division, said at the plant’s opening.

The material is a massive change from when William Harshaw built a factory to make pigments and other chemical colors. Then, the best way around Northeast Ohio was on horseback.

BASF engineers said the dramatic improvements they’re expecting from their cathode materials should make electric car batteries more powerful, longer lasting and much cheaper. Over the next few months, the plant should create only a few dozen jobs, but that figure could grow in the coming years.

The new BASF materials plant was built with nearly $25 million in federal stimulus grants. The federally funded Argonne National Labratory near Chicago developed the process that BASF plans to commercialize in Elyria.

Bozich said the company chose Elyria because its employees there were already familiar with the basic process of making the specialty materials it needs.


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