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Startup Partners With Colleges for Carolina Battery Institute

Soelect, a startup that makes components for EV batteries, is working with area community colleges to host courses in quality control, battery testing and battery manufacturing at its facility in Greensboro.

Disassembling an electric vehicle battery.
(TNS) — In keeping with the state's push towards clean energy, a local startup announced Tuesday it plans to launch a school next year that will train a new workforce of battery technicians for the Triad.

Gov. Roy Cooper visited Soelect's facilities for the announcement of the new school — aptly named the Carolina Battery Institute — which will partner with area community colleges and admit 600 students every year. The Carolina Battery Institute will offer three courses on quality control, battery testing and battery manufacturing courses, according to June Sunwoo, Soelect's senior manager of business development.

Sunwoo said that the courses will be held at Soelect's facilities at 4355 Federal Drive in Greensboro. The company has an affiliation agreement with Forsyth Tech, and anticipates future agreements with GTCC and Randolph Community College in Asheboro.

During the announcement, CEO Jin Cho said that finding the right people has been a challenge for Soelect.

"We've faced many challenges to hire the right, skilled workers," Cho said. "Especially battery technicians."

Dr. Alan Murdock, Forsyth Tech's chief economic mobility officer, said that he was excited for the school to be affiliated with such a strong company for battery production.

"They've said they're having a hard time hiring that workforce, so let's create the solution," Murdock said.

Soelect's announcement is part of the state's "Clean Energy Week," which is an effort to highlight North Carolina's progress in transitioning to a future reliant on renewable sources.

"North Carolina is the epicenter of clean energy," Cooper told those in attendance on Tuesday. "When I talk to some in government who are less enthusiastic about it, I don't even talk about climate change, though we have to talk about it. What I talk about is the green. If you talk to any CEO of any car company in the world, they will tell you that they are stumbling all over themselves to get into the market first for affordable vehicles."

Cooper commended Soelect and its CEO and founder, Sung Jin-Cho, who conducted major research on solid-state batteries for four years at N.C. A&T before starting his company.

Soelect was founded in 2018 and has raised more than $13 million from a pool of investors that include General Motors. In April 2022, Soelect announced a $200 million joint partnership with a foreign company called Lotte Ventures to make advanced battery components for electric vehicles in the U.S.

The company also appointed former U.S. Sen. Richard Burr as a senior advisor during the same month in order to use his experience to find both public and private investment sources.

During the announcement, Cho referenced the strong demand for battery manufacturing in the Triad because of investments from companies such as Toyota, John Deere and Boom Supersonic.

Emily Holland, a corporate communications manager for Toyota who attended the announcement, said that Toyota is "reviewing and considering what a possible partnership with the Carolina Battery Institute would look like."

In a statement, Piedmont Triad Partnership CEO Mike Fox said that the launch of the Carolina Battery Institute is further evidence that the Carolina Core — a 120-plus mile stretch of central North Carolina that includes the Triad — has emerged as a global transportation technology hub.

"With more than $15 billion in recent capital investment pouring into the Carolina Core," he said, "the region has diversified from its rich legacy of textiles, tobacco and furniture manufacturing to a future-forward economy catalyzed by research, innovation and business partnerships coming out of local colleges and universities."

©2023 the News & Record (Greensboro, N.C.). Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.