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June 14th, 2012

A123 Systems improves Li-ion battery and hopes to improve fortunes, too

Published on June 14th, 2012 | By: Eileen De Guire

A123 Systems is looking for “tweaks” to improve the battery’s—and the company’s—fortunes. Credit: Fiskar Automotive.

A story earlier this week on Technology Review says A123 Systems is introducing a new, improved rendering of its lithium-ion battery in an effort to “open up new applications for lithium-ion batteries and lower the cost of electric vehicles.”

The new batteries are still based on A123’s lithium-iron phosphate technology and, according to the story, involves “tweaks to both of the battery’s electrodes as well as the electrolytes.” The improvements will allow the batteries to perform better in a temperature range that spans above and below the sweet spot temperature range of the company’s current product. Bart Riley, chief technology officer, expects they will cost about the same amount and will be in production by 2013.

The expanded temperature range batteries are expected to be attractive to the electric vehicle market and would allow for less complex cooling systems. The cooling system is part of the “battery pack,” which costs about $10,000. The article cites a National Renewable Energy Laboratory expert who thinks the simplified cooling system could reduce the battery pack cost by 10-25 percent. They are also being promoted as replacements for lead-acid batteries, for example as backup power systems for cell towers, and could offer a cost savings in the range of 60 percent over lead-acid batteries.

A123 Systems could use a win—and soon.

As we reported in February, the company is struggling to overcome the impact of the hard times its primary customer, automaker Fisker Karma, is experiencing. According to the Tech Review story, the company is also working to overcome the consequences of a battery recall that is hitting the company’s pocketbook pretty hard, and apparently, it has advised regulators that it might not survive the year.



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