Editor’s note: This is the first in a series of stories to be published this week focusing on how some of our most read stories of the past 12 months will influence the next 12 months. Today’s story focuses on three notable economic development projects that took big steps in 2023.
The Jamestown area is poised to become a key player in green transportation in the coming year.
As The Post-Journal reported nearly a year ago, Cummins Inc. will bring its line of fuel-independent X15N engines to its Jamestown engine plant in 2024 as part of a multi-year project that ends in 2026, while Electrovaya is expected to open its Gigafactory across the former Acu-Rite building at Ellicott this year as well. And ammunition manufacturer ND Presstec is working to redevelop the former Truck-Lite plant into the manufacturer’s newest North American locations. Stories about all three businesses were among the most read stories published by The Post-Journal in 2023.
An official announcement of Cummins’ X15N engine line was made at the Jamestown Engine Plant in May. the fuel-agnostic engine that spurred a $452 million investment in Cummins’ Jamestown engine plant. The fuel-independent architecture of the 15-liter platform uses a common base engine with cylinder heads and fuel systems specifically tailored to use carbon-free hydrogen or biogas with up to 90% carbon reduction.
“The world is changing fast,” said Srikanth Padmanabhan, Cummins vice president and president of Engine Business, at the May event in Busti. “If we don’t move and we don’t stand still, I think they will abandon us. That’s one thing. The second thing is that Jamestown has always been a factory where they meet needs. Once they say they will do something, they always do it on time and within the quality levels and cost targets we set. Which makes us feel comfortable giving them stretch goals and they deliver what we want from them. I couldn’t be more pleased with what they did.”
Several thousand X15N engines have been produced so far. Some of these engines have been sold to companies in China while testing is taking place in the United States. This fall, Knight Transportation Inc., part of Knight-Swift Transportation Holdings Inc. and the industry’s largest full-load company, tested the X15N natural gas engine in southern California – realizing reductions in nitrogen oxides and greenhouse gases without compromising performance, according to Cummins officials. Other customers that have tested X15N engines include Walmart, Werner, Matheson and National Ready Mix.
In August, PACCAR and Cummins jointly announced that the Cummins X15N natural gas engine will be used in new Kenworth and Peterbilt trucks. Cummins also has an MoU with Tata Auto Group for hydrogen-powered engines.
Cummins is investing $452 million to equip the 998,000-square-foot Jamestown engine plant to produce the industry’s first fuel-agnostic internal combustion engine platform that uses a range of lower- carbon emissions. The fuel-independent architecture of the 15-liter platform uses a common base engine with cylinder heads and fuel systems specifically tailored to use carbon-free hydrogen or biogas with up to 90% carbon reduction.
“I was here not too long ago and this place was an old block and title that was there for the M11,” Padmanabhan said. “And it was just really transformed. And I can’t wait to come a year from now to see what kind of things these people are actually going to do.”
Electrovaya, an electric battery maker, is working to convert the former home of Acu-Rite Inc. in Ellicott at its Gigafactory. Company officials said earlier this year in a conference call with industry analysts that battery assembly at the new Ellicott Gigafactory would begin in the first quarter of 2024, with cell assembly beginning in the second quarter of 2025, as most of the plant renovation is complete.
The site will eventually manufacture Electrovaya’s Infinity line of lithium-ion ceramic batteries, including the company’s proprietary ceramic separators, cells, modules and battery systems. The company is expected to initially hire about 150 employees with the possibility of hiring 250 employees when the plant is completed.
“Electrovaya is growing rapidly and eventually we will need additional capacity,” Raj Das Gupta, Electrovaya’s chief executive, said in May. “This was one of the driving factors behind our US manufacturing expansion in Jamestown, New York. In March, we acquired the Precision Way site by purchasing the shares of Sustainable Energy Jamestown. We are also making good progress in reaching an agreement with a government-backed financial institution to provide the necessary financing to equip the first phase of our planned gigafactory. One of the requirements of this institution is to provide a detailed independent engineering review, for which we have engaged a leading engineering consultancy. Their initial analysis is underway and we expect to receive it later this month. The Jamestown Gigafactory will be key to allowing Electrovaya to grow further and also to access new incentives related to the Inflation Reduction Act.”
The Jamestown facility has access to low-cost renewable energy as negotiated with the New York Energy Authority. The location is well connected to transportation, has excellent expansion potential and is in close proximity to the company’s existing facilities in Ontario in addition to the manufacturing facilities of current and prospective customers.
“So ultimately this facility will be over one gigawatt hour capacity,” Das Gupta said on a conference call earlier this year. “However, the first phase of the project, we’re going to be looking at more like a third of that capacity because that’s what the existing building can accommodate, and that’s what we’re looking to fund in that first phase.”
There is also activity at the former Truck-Lite plant in Falconer.
Earlier this year, Krog Group LLC of Orchard Park purchased the plant at 310 E. Elmwood Ave., Falconer, to house ND PressTec, a German company owned by the NAMMO Group that makes small- and medium-caliber ammunition. At an estimated cost of $10 million, the project was expected to create about 80 full-time jobs, according to information provided at the August 2022 public hearing.