General Motors Corp. and A123Systems, Inc. will co-develop cells with A123System's nanophosphate battery chemistry for a long-lasting, safe and powerful battery for use in GM’s electric drive E-Flex system. The agreement is expected to expedite the development of the batteries for both electric plug-in vehicles and fuel cell variants of the E-Flex architecture.
"Breakthrough battery technology will drive future automotive propulsion, and the company that aligns with the best strategic partners will win. That’s what is so important about this deal,” said Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of Global Product Development. “Whether you’re talking about the Chevy Volt, a fuel cell or even a plug-in hybrid such as our planned Saturn Vue, we need to understand the fundamental battery cell performance.”
The contract calls for A123Systems, of Watertown, Mass., to develop battery cells to meet the specific requirements of GM’s E-Flex system. A123Systems is considered a forerunner in the development of nanophosphate-based cell technology, which, compared to other lithium-ion battery chemistries, provides higher power output, longer life and safer operations over the life of the battery.
The E-Flex electric vehicle architecture was first shown in the Chevy Volt concept car revealed earlier this year. For average commuters driving 40 miles, the Chevy Volt will use zero gasoline and produce zero emissions and could nearly eliminate going to the gas station altogether.
"The Chevy Volt will lead the automotive industry in a new direction,” Lutz said. “We see a future where vehicles run on electricity and are equipped with clever ways of making electricity on board, making us less dependent on gasoline. It's the next great paradigm shift in our industry, an opportunity largely due to the rapid advancement in battery cell technology by companies such as A123Systems and LG Chem.”
Earlier this year, GM awarded two contracts for advanced development of battery packs, which require the integration of multiple battery cells, to Compact Power, Inc., a subsidiary of Korean battery manufacturer LG Chem, based in Troy, Mich.; and Frankfurt, Germany-based Continental Automotive Systems, a division of Continental A.G., a tier one automotive supplier. Under these agreements, one contract was awarded to CPI, which will use battery cells developed by parent company LG Chem. A separate contract was issued to Continental, which will use the cells being co-developed by GM and A123Systems.
"A123Systems and LG Chem are both top-tier battery suppliers, with proven technologies,” said Denise Gray, director of GM's Energy Storage Devices and Strategies. "We’re confident one, or possibly both of these companies’ solutions will meet our battery requirements for the E-Flex system.”
Dave Vieau, A123System's chief executive officer, said this type of battery will be advantageous in other transportation industries as well.
“We’re talking today about the Volt and implications that it will have on the electrification of passenger vehicles, but the technology goes a lot further than that,” Vieau said. “The weight, size, safety and performance of these batteries have implications on all transportation, including hybrid buses, trucks and aircraft.”
A123Systems currently manufactures over ten million cells annually making it the world’s largest producer of batteries with nanophosphate chemistry. Most of these cells are used in rechargeable power tools.