The future of a planned $220 million battery manufacturing plant in Palmdale has been thrown into doubt after the federal government last week rejected funding for the project.


Quallion LLC, a high-tech battery maker owned by billionaire Alfred Mann, had hoped to receive $100 million to $200 million for the project from the U.S. Department of Energy.

However, the Sylmar company announced that its application for the department's Electric Drive Vehicle Battery and Component Manufacturing Initiative had not been accepted.

Company President Paul Beach told the Business Journal last month that the company would continue efforts to build the plant regardless of whether or not it received funding. But he added construction could be delayed without it.

"We are disappointed by the decision and are waiting to hear the reasoning from the Department of Energy." Beach said in a company statement issued after the decision. "We are evaluating our options and hope to move forward with the new facility in the near future."

The company has spent the past several months securing $20 million in funding and commitments from other sources, but it was contingent on receiving the federal grant.

Quallion makes lithium ion batteries, the preferred technology for energy-intensive applications such as electric and hybrid cars and trucks. Most production of such batteries is now in Asia.

The plant was expected to create 400 construction jobs plus 400 to 2,000 permanent jobs.



Hot Springs

Those that say manufacturing is dying in California might want to sit down for this, or better yet, lay down: A Venice company that designs high-end mattresses has brought its manufacturing to Southern California.

Although Somnium is a local company, it had been importing its mattresses from Austria, where owner Rainer Wieland was born and raised. But seeking to cut costs, Sonium has started manufacturing its beds closer to home.

The company has contracted with a company in Buena Park that makes mattress covers and another in Riverside that makes spring assemblies and foam. It declined to name the companies for competitive reasons.

"They were picked as partners because they have enough capacity, machinery and production know-how to facilitate pretty much any rate of growth of Somnium," Wieland said. "Apparently, there is no shortage of talent to find if you are looking for it in Southern California."

Wieland, an aspiring musician who moved to Los Angeles in 1999, was inspired to start a mattress company when his roommate suffered a herniated disk. He commissioned Austrian designer Harald Hatchenberger to create two bed-frame models named OmniFlex, which are handmade in wood and leather, and available in a variety of wood finishes.

Unlike conventional beds, Somnium's product has a mattress cover that can be taken off and placed in a washing machine. Also, the springs are made of recyclable plastic that are encased in just two inches of foam, so the bed is just a fraction of the weight of traditional steel coil mattresses.

The beds, which retail from $1,850 for a twin to $2,500 for a king, sell in 18 stores throughout the United States. Wieland hopes to expand to hotel chains and major retailers.

An Instrumental Development

An instrument designed by the Redondo Beach branch of Northrop Grumman Corp. for a satellite that will provide weather and climate information has been given the green light for production.

The device, called the Advanced Technology Microwave Sounder, is being installed on a new satellite called the National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System.

The satellite, which is scheduled to launch in 2014, will circle Earth approximately once every 100 minutes and collect data about the weather, atmosphere, oceans, land and near-space environment, company officials said.

Northrop Grumman will build the ATMS in Redondo Beach under contract from the NPOESS Integrated Program Office, managed by various federal agencies, including the Department of Defense and NASA.

Staff Reporter Francisco Vara-Orta can be reached at (323) 549-5225, ext. 241, or at fvara-orta@labusinessjournal.com

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