Volvo Group and Komatsu have both announced plans to acquire battery manufacturers – Proterra Inc. and American Battery Solutions Inc., respectively. Doing so will help the companies with their continued development of electric-powered construction and other heavy-duty machinery.
Many heavy equipment OEMs like Volvo and Komatsu do not have battery expertise in-house. By partnering with or flat out acquiring a battery manufacturer, it is possible for the OEM to gain that knowledge and advance its technology development efforts.
The battery manufacturer can bring its expertise to the OEM who can offer its own insights into the specific needs of electrifying heavy equipment, ensuring the right battery technology for a given application is utilized.
Both Proterra and American Battery Solutions have developed battery systems for heavy-duty on- and off-road vehicles, making them a good fit for Volvo and Komatsu’s ongoing electrification needs.
Proterra Technology to Benefit Various Volvo Businesses
Volvo’s acquisition of Proterra’s battery business came about because the company is currently undergoing a voluntary Chapter 11 bankruptcy process. As part of this, Proterra Inc. and Proterra Operating Company Inc. are auctioning off business assets.
Volvo Group was selected as the winning bidder for the Proterra Powered business unit which includes Proterra’s battery technology and expertise. Assets Volvo will gain as part of the acquisition are a development center for battery modules and packs in California as well as an assembly factory in South Carolina.
Proterra’s CEO Gareth Joyce said in a press release announcing the sale of the battery business that the company entered into the Chapter 11 process to maximize the potential of its product lines. The company filed for bankruptcy in early August – one of several EV (electric vehicle) related companies to experience financial issues in recent months. Various market and macroeconomic headwinds impacting the business were given as the reason for the company’s bankruptcy filing.
Proterra was started in 2004 as a developer of electric transit buses, a sector that was an early adopter of hybrid and electric solutions. The company grew over the years and eventually began developing its own battery and powertrain technology, then established a third business unit focused on charging infrastructure. With the battery business, Proterra Power, the company brought its expertise to additional applications including heavy trucks, off-highway equipment and others.
This technology expertise will fit in well with the Volvo Group which has been developing electrification solutions for its trucks, buses, and construction and mining equipment for several years now. Volvo said in its press release announcing its acquisition that Proterra’s technology will complement its current battery-electric roadmap as well as help accelerate future developments.
Bringing Proterra’s battery expertise and assets in house will help Volvo speed up its development efforts, which in turn can help bring products to market faster and increase the uptake of electric vehicles and machines.
The acquisition is subject to various approvals but is expected to close in early 2024. Once it closes, what will come of Proterra’s existing partnerships with other OEMs, including one with Komatsu, remains to be seen. But it remains evident electrification is a key area of emphasis for Volvo, and this acquisition will benefit further development initiatives.
Komatsu to Power Mining Equipment with ABS Batteries
Komatsu’s U.S. subsidiary Komatsu America Corp. has agreed to acquire Detroit-based American Battery Solutions (ABS) which develops and manufactures battery packs for both heavy-duty mobile and industrial applications. The company’s lithium-ion batteries are available in standard and custom configurations to suit a range of industry requirements.
Most recently, ABS launched a new transit bus battery pack for New Flyer Industries. The custom designed battery pack is based on the company’s ProLiance Intelligent Battery Series architecture and fits within New Flyer’s existing battery enclosure design, easing installation for the electric bus OEM.
This and other existing customer agreements will remain intact as the goal is to have ABS continue operating as an independent entity. Current and future customers will continue to be supported by the company.
With the acquisition by Komatsu, ABS will be able to expand its technology into more off-highway and commercial vehicle, as well as industrial, applications – all of which are increasing their electrification efforts at a rapid pace.
“This partnership will position ABS as a leading partner for electrification of industrial equipment and commercial vehicles globally. Komatsu's acquisition of ABS is testament to the intellectual and manufacturing assets ABS has developed in the span of 4 years," said founder and CEO Subhash Dhar in the company’s press release announcing the acquisition.
"After more than a year of evaluating potential battery partners, ABS stood out because of the depth of the team and their strong technical skill base, breadth of business and battery systems know-how, and battery manufacturing expertise for heavy duty markets," said Taisuke Kusaba, CTO and President, Development Division, Komatsu Ltd.
Per Komatsu, the acquisition of ABS will enable the company to develop and produce its own battery-operated construction and mining equipment by integrating ABS’ battery technology with Komatsu’s knowledge and network. The first machines Komatsu plans to power with ABS batteries is mining equipment in North and South America due to increasing demand for electrification solutions in these markets.
Mining has been on a path toward electrification for several years, especially underground mining, because of the health and safety benefits possible. Removing diesel engines from underground mines means there are no harmful emissions in these confined spaces. In addition, ventilation systems used in these applications – which are often one of the costliest parts of a mine – can be minimized as they no longer have to remove vehicle emissions.
Komatsu said in its press release announcing the acquisition of ABS that it also plans to expand use of the battery technology to its construction equipment in the future as well as establish a global supply system.
Creation of electric-powered heavy equipment is part of Komatsu’s long-term strategy to help achieve carbon neutrality. The acquisition of ABS will be a key part of this along with its various other development partnerships, such as that with Moog Inc. in which the companies are working to completely electrify construction equipment – meaning no hydraulics are included.
The acquisition of ABS is subject to various regulatory approvals, but Komatsu anticipates its closure on December 1, 2023.