Exide Technologies unveiled its newest automotive battery technology and a state-of-the-art manufacturing operation at its Columbus, GA, facility, producing AGM, or Absorbed Glass Mat batteries.
The March 13th event brought together officials from Exide as well as the local chamber of commerce and a representative from the U.S. Department of Energy. Officials said the plant was made possible by a $34 million Department of Energy grant that assisted in the retooling and construction at the existing Exide facility in Columbus as well as another plant in Bristol, TN.
"This is an exciting announcement for our company, because it signals a great new product for our customers in the Americas and is the result of understanding our customers’ needs and designing a solution,” said Jim Bolch, president and CEO of Exide Technologies.
The Columbus plant marks the first time Exide’s AGM batteries are being produced in the U.S. The plant is producing the Exide Edge Absorbed Glass Mat battery which features SureLife Graphite Technology designed to maximize available energy capacity, according to the company. The addition of a small amount of graphite assists in helping batteries perform at higher levels for a longer period of time, said Dr. Paul Cheeseman, Exide’s vice president, global engineering and research. Absorbed Glass Mat construction allows for a sealed, maintenance-free battery, and features a series of mats that are squeezed into the battery box. The mats assist in slowing the degradation that occurs over time with conventional flooded batteries.
"Charge acceptance and longer life are the best benefits of the AGM battery," said Dr. Paul Cheeseman, Exide’s vice president, Global Engineering and Research. "The Edge technology benefits today’s mainstream vehicles and tomorrow’s hybrid vehicles. And we will continue to innovate with AGM and graphite technology."
Exide is working with auto manufacturers in North America to feature AGM batteries in new vehicles as well as those being produced with start-stop technology, the company said. The Department of Energy saw the benefit in funding such a battery because start-stop technology, which is becoming more common in Europe, will increasingly be seen stateside in the future. A stop-start engine shuts off when a vehicle comes to a stop, such as at a traffic light. When the pedal is pressed, the engine restarts. While the technology saves on gasoline, the constant starting and stopping is more wear and tear than a conventional flooded battery could handle.
"AGM’s innovation and technology is a response to market demands and customer needs for changes in automobiles," said Paul Hirt, president, Exide Americas. "Exide’s AGM batteries form one of the most complete lines in the industry and provides customers with the ability to serve today’s active families and busy professionals, from minivans to SUVs, sedans and trucks to boats and RVs."
Event attendees were given an up-close tour of the plant, which will begin shipping batteries to aftermarket automotive retailers March 19. The plant also manufactures batteries for non-automotive applications.
Exide has already been providing batteries for start-stop vehicles throughout Europe since 2009 and recently produced its 2.5 millionth battery for these applications, Cheeseman said.
The Columbus facility expects to employ 250 people when it reaches full production early in 2013.