In 2021, Yang transferred the battery license to a European company based in the Netherlands. The company, Vanadis Power, told NPR that it initially planned to continue manufacturing batteries technology in China and then hoped to set up a factory in Germany, said Roelof Plattenkamp, the company’s founding partner. Platenkamp said. .
Vanadium power is needed to make batteries technology in Europe because the EU has strict rules about where companies make products, Plattenkamp said.
“I want to be a European company in Europe, definitely a non-Chinese company,” Plattenkamp said in an interview with NPR.
But America also has such laws. Any transfer of a US government license requires US government approval not to move manufacturing overseas. The United States has lost significant jobs in recent years in areas where it first thrived, such as solar panels, drones and telecommunications equipment. Still, when UniEnergy applied for approval, it apparently had no trouble getting it.
On July 7, 2021, a senior official at UniEnergy Technologies emailed an official manager of the lab where the battery was made. UniEnergy officials said they were working out a deal with Vanadez, according to emails reviewed by NPR, and that they were transferring the license to Vanadez.
“We are working to finalize an agreement with Vanadis Power and believe they have the right combination of technical expertise,” the UniEnergy Technologies email said. “Our transaction with Vanadis is ready to proceed pending your approval…”
The government manager replied that he needed confirmation before transferring the license and emailed another UniEnergy employee. Another employee responded an hour and a half later and the license was transferred to Vanadis Power.
It is not clear whether the lab manager or anyone else. Or the Department of Energy thought to check during that hour and a half or later. Whether Vanadis Power was an American company or intended to be manufactured in the United States. To make batteries in China.
In response, department officials said they review each transfer for compliance. And said new rules enacted by the Biden administration last summer would close loopholes. And allow more manufacturing to continue here. will
But agency officials acknowledged that their reviews are often based on companies’ “good faith disclosures”. Meaning that if companies like UniEnergy Technologies don’t say anything, the U.S. government might find it necessary.
It’s a problem that has dogged the department for years, according to government investigators.
In 2018, the Government Accountability Office found that the Energy Department lacked. The resources to properly monitor its licenses, relied on outdated computer systems. And did not have uniform policies across its labs. .
In this case, it was an American company, Forever Energy. That raised its license concerns with UniEnergy more than a year ago. Joanne Skievaski said she and others at the company repeatedly warned department officials that UniEnergy’s license was not in compliance. In emails reviewed by NPR, department officials told him yes.
“How come the national lab didn’t need American manufacturing?” asked Skiewski. “It’s not just a license violation, it’s a violation of our country.”
Now that the license has been revoked by the Department of Energy. Skiwaski said he hopes Forever Energy can get it or a similar license. The company plans to open a factory in Louisiana next year and begin manufacturing. He resents the idea that American engineers are not up to the challenge.
“That’s nonsense,” he said. “We’re ready to go with this technology.”
Still, he says it will be difficult for any American company to catch on right now. Industry trade reports currently list Dalian Rongke Power Company Limited as the world’s leading manufacturer of vanadium redox flow batteries. Skiewski also worries that China will stop making batteries technology. When an European company gets the right to start making them.
It cannot be possible. Chinese news reports say the country is about to bring online one of the world’s largest battery farms. Reports say that the entire giant JA is made of vanadium redox flow batteries technology.
This story is a partnership with the NPR Station Investigative Team. Which supports local investigative journalism, and the Northwest News Network. Public radio stations broadcasting in Oregon and Washington states.
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