Indiana, Chinese Officials to Gather for Summit on Future of Plug-In Vehicles

Indiana, Chinese Officials to Gather for Summit on Future of Plug-In Vehicles

Indiana’s yearlong effort to lay the groundwork for the development of clean-technology industries began to bear fruit Monday when officials announced a summit meeting on potential partnerships with China for making electric and hybrid vehicles.

About 100 company and government representatives from China plan to meet later this week with about 100 counterparts in Indiana to discuss “building a mutually profitable relationship,” Gov. Mitch Daniels said at a news conference. He said it could “lead to all sorts of positive benefits for the people of our state.”

The Chinese delegation is expected to include representatives of about 15 Chinese vehicle manufacturers and numerous government and economic development organizations. They will meet with leaders of Indiana companies and government agencies to discuss possible partnerships in building electric, hybrid-electric and cleaner diesel vehicles.

The meetings could lead to agreements for Indiana companies to contribute components for vehicles assembled in China, the export of U.S.-made vehicles to China, or the manufacture of Chinese vehicles in Indiana. A major lithium-ion battery company, Enerdel, has manufacturing operations in Indianapolis. Because the battery packs used in electric vehicles are bulky and very heavy, with high shipping costs, it is often more efficient and less costly to assemble batteries and vehicles nearby.

A Norway-based electric car manufacturer plans to begin building a subcompact called Think City in Elkhart County, Ind., in 2011, not far from Enerdel, which is to supply its battery pack. Enerdel’s parent company has an ownership stake in Think.

“This is the first summit of this kind about advanced technology vehicles between China and the United States,” said Chu Mao Ming, deputy counsel general at the Chinese consulate in Chicago, at the press conference.

“We have very strong connections in economic relationships. Now, we are going to develop some kind of green economy and new technology. This could be very good for China and for Indiana, and we are very excited about it,” Mr. Chu added.

An organization of business representatives called the Energy Systems Network began working in April last year on ways for Indiana to participate in emerging cleaner-technology industries.

“All signs point to ‘clean technologies’ as a bright spot in an otherwise troubled economy,” officials said last year in announcing the formation of the Energy Systems Network, which is led by F.J. “Joe” Loughery, retiring vice chairman of diesel engine manufacturer Cummins Inc. Also part of the network are James E. Rogers, chairman and chief executive of Duke Energy, and Charles Gassenheimer, chairman and chief executive of Ener1 Corp., parent of battery maker Enerdel.

Mr. Loughery described this week’s meeting as “an invitation-only summit to bring together CEOs of major components systems suppliers meeting with senior executives of leading Chinese vehicle manufacturers.”

They will discuss “challenges and opportunities for commercialization of advanced technology vehicles,” he said, adding it is “something we are very excited about.”

The Energy Systems Network is already involved in two initiatives in addition to arranging the summit meeting in collaboration with the Chinese Chamber of Commerce for Manufacturing Equipment and Electronics and the Chinese Association of Automobile Manufacturers.

One project of the network is the Hoosier Heavy Hybrid Partnership, aimed at developing more cost-effective hybrid trucks. Another is Project Plug-In, which will seek to integrate plug-in vehicles and the digital “smart grid” in the Indianapolis area, making it a center for electrified-vehicle commuting.

“There is no bilateral relationship in the world more important than the one between the United States and China,” said Gov. Daniels, adding that he expects the summit to lead to “mutuality, trust and economic advance for the people of both places.”

 

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