Nov 14 (Reuters) - Materials science startup Forge Nano is the latest company to plant a stake in North Carolina's burgeoning electric vehicle (EV) battery belt, with a planned $165 million factory in 2026, the firm said Tuesday.

Colorado-based Forge Nano, which specializes in nanocoatings for a variety of applications, said it plans to launch an EV battery business near Raleigh with a new unit called Forge Battery.

The battery manufacturing operation, backed by Forge Nano and a variety of unnamed investors, plans to make lithium-ion cells for use in defense, aerospace and specialty electric vehicle markets.

Forge Nano's investors include the U.S. Departments of Defense and Energy along with large corporate investors from Japan, Germany, France, South Korea and Thailand, according to investor website PitchBook.

The plant will make both high-energy and high-power cylindrical cells in 21700 and 18650 formats made popular by Tesla.

The company said it plans to use "a U.S-focused battery material supply chain" without providing specifics. The U.S. government provides incentives for batteries and battery materials sourced domestically.

North Carolina is providing more than $8 million in incentives to Forge Battery.

The plant, in Morrisville, will have an initial capacity of one gigawatt-hour -- relatively modest compared with so-called "gigafactories" operated by Tesla, General Motors, LG Energy Solution, Panasonic and others.

Forge Nano's move follows a tidal wave of investments in new EV battery plants, many of them in North Carolina, spurred by the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act. The IRA and other U.S. legislation provide incentives aimed at boosting domestic production of EVs, batteries and raw materials.

Among the most recent deals was an Oct. 31 announcement by Toyota Motor that it would boost its investment in a North Carolina EV battery plant by $8 billion, to nearly $14 billion. (Reporting by Paul Lienert in Detroit; Editing by David Gregorio)