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USA: A123 Systems reports ‘major breakthrough’ in electric vehicle battery technology

A123 Systems, the manufacturer of electric vehicle battery packs, said a new technology could reduce the cost of electric vehicles by $600.

But an executive said the Massachusetts-based company will focus more on selling its electrical grid storage products because demand for electrical vehicles remains weak.

“As a company we’re not focused on EVs because we have seen a pullback in the marketplace as it relates to EV adoption,” said Jason Forcier, vice president of A123’s automotive solutions group. “Focusing on those other customers, that’s really what’s going to be driving the company going forward.”

A123, which employs about 780 workers in Livonia, Romulus and Ann Arbor, said its new technology, nanophosphate EXT, relies on chemistry improvements to reduce the need for battery cooling systems. Batteries using the technology would be able to maintain 90% of their initial power capacity after 2,000 full charge-discharge cycles at 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit).

“I think it is a major breakthrough for the technology,” Forcier said.

A123 has faced a series of challenges in recent months, including investor lawsuits, following disclosure that a production problem that forced it to recall batteries supplied to electric vehicle makers such as Fisker Automotive.

The company received a $249.1 million federal economic stimulus grant in 2009 and $135 million in tax credits, incentives and grants from the Michigan Economic Development Corp.

But A123 lost $125 million in the first quarter on sales of $10.9 million. The company told the Securities and Exchange Commission in May that there was “substantial doubt” about its ability to continue to operate on its own.

Still, Forcier said A123 is pressing ahead with plans to add 400 new employees over the next four months to its Michigan plants. He said the company is experiencing new demand from customers in the electrical grid storage sector. The new technology, he said, could appeal to the telecommunications sector for use in cell phone towers or to automakers as a replacement for lead-acid batteries in start-stop micro-hybrids, which are popular in Europe and are starting to roll out in the U.S.


1 comment to USA: A123 Systems reports ‘major breakthrough’ in electric vehicle battery technology

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