Chief executive David Vieau said the new technology could be a game changer for the electric vehicle and telecommunications markets. Until now, many lithium ion batteries made by A123 and other manufacturers needed separate heating and cooling systems to operate in extreme temperatures.
The new batteries work better at both high and low temperatures than the company’s current batteries. The new battery design might also allow automakers to simplify or eliminate the liquid cooling and heating systems used in some electric vehicles.
Eliminating the need for these systems would make batteries lighter, cheaper, and more competitive with traditional lead acid batteries. A123 estimates its new generation batteries, called Nanophosphate EXT, are about half the weight of traditional batteries, charge several times more quickly, and last longer.
A123 said it also plans to market its improved batteries as backup systems for cell towers, and expects to ramp up production of the batteries in the first half of next year.
A123 isn’t saying much about the details of the new technology, except to say it involves tweaks to both of the battery’s electrodes as well as the battery electrolyte. The new batteries still use a type of lithium-iron phosphate, the chemistry used in A123’s conventional cells, and are expected to cost about the same amount to make, says Bart Riley, A123’s chief technology officer. He says the new cells will be in commercial production by the beginning of next year.
A123 Systems supplies batteries for the Fisker Karma plug-in hybrid, hybrid buses, and for electric grid support. It’s fallen on hard times lately, in large part because of an expensive recall campaign to replace defective batteries.
A123 hopes the new cells will bring new customers, but it’s also told regulators that, because of its dire financial situation, it might not last through the end of the year.[source: Freep.com]