Arkansas Economic Development Commission

Newsroom

Company Gets Grant to Boost Production of Submarine Batteries

Exide Technologies (www.exide.com), a global provider of stored electrical energy solutions, has been awarded a $30.7 million cost-sharing grant from the United States Government as part of the Defense Production Act (DPA) Title III Program.

The Title III Technology Investment Agreement awarded to Exide is dedicated to advancing the production capabilities behind process design and manufacturing of storage batteries at the Company’s facility in Fort Smith, Arkansas.  Not only will the project provide technological enhancements for battery systems deployed on U.S. Navy nuclear submarines, the same technological enhancements will also benefit Exide’s commercial customers.  

"We need to maintain a strong national defense with the most advanced technologies and cutting edge tools,” said U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Arkansas. “Exide plays an important role in supporting our military and I am pleased that the Fort Smith facility is expanding to continue providing critical equipment to the U.S. Navy.”

The Exide Fort Smith facility produces flooded and valve-regulated lead-acid (VRLA) batteries that serve a wide range of commercial applications including battery systems used as the main storage emergency AC/DC backup power deployed on U.S. Navy nuclear submarines.

“Because of companies like Exide, Arkansas continues to produce technology and products for our military that make the U.S. a safer place,” said Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson. “We are proud of Exide’s partnership with the U.S. Navy and look forward to the results of this innovative project.”

The project, known as Project Neptune, will begin in June 2016 and is expected to be complete by August 2021.  Implementation of process enhancement initiatives will create jobs at the 224,000 square-foot Fort Smith facility, which celebrated its 40th year of operation in 2015. 

“I am excited that Exide Technologies is growing good-paying jobs right here in Fort Smith. Arkansas continues to establish itself as a force in the defense industry, and Exide Technologies’ success is another example of that," said Arkansas Lieutenant Governor Tim Griffin.

The DPA Title III Grant and Exide Fort Smith Enhancements

The DPA grant, which became effective January 25, 2016, is a five-year, cost-sharing agreement between the U.S. Government and Exide.  The Government share is $18.7 million; the Exide recipient share is $12 million.  Funding will automate and improve the battery production process at Fort Smith, including enhancements to quality control, automated data collection systems, new equipment and improved process flow, creating a state-of-the-art battery manufacturing facility. 

“Arkansas is proud that Exide has recognized that our state’s workforce is second-to-none when it comes to manufacturing products of this magnitude,” said Mike Preston, Executive Director of the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. “We have all of the pieces of the puzzle to compete with the best and the brightest around the world, and Exide’s decision to produce these batteries here is a testament to Arkansas’ innovation.”

“For the past several decades, Exide has been a supplier of submarine batteries to the U.S. Navy, a business that we are proud to serve,” said Vic Koelsch, President and Chief Executive Officer of Exide Technologies.  “Through this grant, and the support from the State of Arkansas, Exide employees will be able to continue to provide premium performance batteries for use in our country’s defense systems.  We take this enormous responsibility to heart.”

Submarines and VRLA Technology

In nuclear submarines, the main storage battery functions as emergency backup power and is capable of supplying power for propulsion if necessary.  The emergency backup power supports communications, lighting, controls, and vital life support systems.

Exide’s maintenance-free VRLA batteries produced at Fort Smith are ideal for use in submarine applications where space is limited and the undersea conditions can be demanding.  These VRLA batteries require minimal maintenance, while providing the required capacity for maximum power and service life. 

“I’m extremely proud of the incredible work the great folks at the Fort Smith facility are doing – it’s important to our Navy service men and women – and it’s important to our nation.  In the event of main power failure on a submarine – a critical national security platform – backup power ultimately becomes the critical life-line to ensuring the safety of our brave sailors who put their lives on the line every day in defense of our nation,” said Representative Steve Womack, U.S. Congressman for Arkansas’ Third District, which includes Fort Smith.

Exide and the U.S. Navy: Through the Years

Exide has a deep history of producing batteries for submarines, having provided power sources for undersea vessels for more than 100 years 

  • In 1898, Exide batteries provided the submerged power for the U.S. Navy’s first modern commissioned submarine, the USS Holland.
  • Exide supplied submarine energy storage batteries to the U.S. Navy throughout World War II.
  • At the dawn of the nuclear age, Exide built the original battery set for the USS Nautilus (SSN 571), the Navy’s first nuclear powered submarine.         
  • Throughout the 1950s and for the next five decades, Exide provided the U.S. Navy with classic, wet cell battery technology.
  • In the early to mid-1990s, Exide successfully developed advanced, VRLA battery systems for Navy research vessels.
  • In 2000, Exide received the first of several battery development contracts for designing and qualifying a VRLA battery for nuclear submarines.
  • In 2006, Exide started delivery of its advanced, low maintenance submarine VRLA battery sets for Los Angeles, Virginia, Ohio, and Seawolf class submarines. 

“Exide is proud to be a supplier to the U.S. Navy for more than a century, producing battery technologies that keep pace with the evolving main storage battery design requirements for submarines,” said George Hunt, Director of Military and Government Business for Exide Technologies.  “In winning this bid, Exide will gain the capabilities to produce and supply the Navy with batteries that meet the most challenging needs of the 21st century fleet of U.S. nuclear submarines.”

 

Fort Smith Facility: A Closer Look

In addition to producing batteries for submarines, the Fort Smith facility manufactures a range of advanced battery products, including those that provide backup power for vast networks of wireless telecommunications systems; uninterruptible power systems that support nuclear, fossil fuel and hydroelectric power plants and railroad signaling systems; and motive power batteries for the material handling industry. The Fort Smith manufacturing facility began operation in 1975, producing network power backup batteries for AT&T and Bell Telephone systems. “The Fort Smith team takes great pride in providing energy storage solutions to our military personnel who rely on our Company for their toughest operational situations," said Jim Gray, Plant Manager, Exide Fort Smith, Arkansas.  “Project Neptune will enable the Fort Smith site to further optimize our capabilities to support the U.S. Navy's future energy storage needs, as well as improve the capabilities of our other VRLA energy storage solutions.”

The facility, which employs 153 hourly and 37 salaried people in manufacturing and distribution, operates two shifts per day, five days per week.  Some parts of the manufacturing process operate 24/7.  The facility is certified to the International Standards Organization (ISO) 9001 for Quality systems and ISO 14001 for Environmental Systems. 

“The DPA grant is exciting news for both Exide Technologies and Fort Smith,” said Tim Allen, president and CEO of the Fort Smith Regional Chamber of Commerce. “We are proud to have a technological leader like Exide in our community. This grant speaks to both the high quality of the Company’s premium performance batteries and the cutting edge talent and resources of the Fort Smith community.”

The Title III Program is a Department of Defense-wide initiative under the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy (MIBP). The Air Force serves as the Executive Agent for the Title III Program within the Department of Defense.

                                                                # # #

About Exide Technologies

Exide Technologies (www.exide.com) is a global provider of stored electrical energy solutions—batteries and associated equipment and services for transportation and industrial markets.  With 127 years of industry experience and operating in more than 80 countries, Exide produces and recycles a broad range of products that keep customers and their businesses powering forward.

The Exide Transportation business manufactures and markets starting, deep-cycle, and micro-hybrid batteries for automotive, light and heavy-duty truck, agricultural, marine, military, powersport, and other specialty applications, along with battery diagnostic equipment and charging systems. 

Exide serves the Industrial Power markets with its GNB®-branded efficient energy storage systems for both Motive Power and Network Power customers.  Motive Power applications include materials handling (power for lift trucks, airside assistance vehicles, and automatic guided vehicles); cleaning machines; railroads; military and mining vehicles; and other commercial electric vehicles.  Network Power installations include standby power for electric utilities; telecommunications systems; alarm/security systems; renewable energy systems; railway systems; uninterruptible power supply (UPS); and defense industry equipment.

Exide Technologies is Powering the World Forward.  History and scale, combined with a start-up mentality, make Exide the right choice for customers who want more than simply a battery supplier. 

Download the 2016 Arkansas Economic Overview