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A123Systems Launches New Higher-Power, Faster Recharging Li-Ion Battery Systems

2 November 2005

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A123Systems, developer of a new generation of lithium-ion batteries, today unveiled its technology that delivers up to 10x longer life, 5x power gains and dramatically faster charge time (more than 90% capacity in five minutes) over conventional high-power battery technology.

These characteristics make the battery highly suited for hybrid, plug-in hybrid and electric vehicle applications, and A123 Systems is working with the DOE to develop next-generation materials for hybrid vehicles.

A123Systems’ batteries use proprietary nanoscale electrode technology built on research at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and exclusively licensed from MIT.

Traditional Li-Ion technology uses active materials with particles that range in size between 5 and 20 microns. These large particles are required to minimize safety risks inherent to first-generation Li-Ion chemistries.

A123 Li-Ion Power
Pulse duration C rate Power Density
Continuous discharge 30 189W 2,700 W/kg
Long pulse 80 240W 3,480 W/kg
Instant pulse 100 344W 4,990 W/kg

A123 batteries, however, use a safe and stable active material that can use particle sizes below 100nm without adverse reaction. This new storage electrode enables much faster kinetics providing higher power than is yet possible from any other Li-Ion chemistry.

Furthermore, to take advantage of the power delivered by this new chemistry, A123 has developed novel electrode and cell designs that provide the lowest impedance of any battery of its size, and a new electrolyte system that operates over a much wider temperature range.

The A123 batteries offer:

  • Twice the energy density of other Li-Ion HEV cells, with the highest power to weight ratio of any commercially available battery (2,700 W/kg at continuous discharge).

  • The lowest impedance of any cell/packs in its class.

  • Low impedance growth even at very high charge/discharge rates.

  • Excellent performance over a wide temperature range (-30 to 60 degrees C).

  • Intrinsically safe chemistry (especially important in large batteries).

  • Outstanding calendar life.

  • Novel design that withstands extreme shocks and vibration.

A123Systems’ first battery is now in production and being delivered to the Black & Decker Corporation for use in DEWALT power tools.

A123Systems has raised more than $32 million in funding from heavyweight investors, including include Desh Deshpande (chairman of the A123 board), Qualcomm, Sequoia Capital, Motorola, North Bridge Venture Partners, MIT, YankeeTek and OnPoint Technologies, a strategic private equity firm funded by the United States Army.

November 2, 2005 in Batteries | Permalink | Comments (59) | TrackBack (0)


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Bottom line is cost. What is the
cost in large production. Can the units be A/B'd
A car has to go about 200 miles between refills
so it can be used for long distance travel.
The rest of the logistics such as where the power is
going to come from I am not as worried about as it can
be solved. Take weight.. Space frame instead of metal cars can drastically reduce the weight. Regenerative breaking will extend the basic range. Solar panels on the roof or trunk can also increase range and decrease the cost of ownership. There are solutions if we start with a platform that can work and be mass produced.
Fingers crossed some real car manfacturer will pick this up and make an affordable electric commuter car.


"I still think that the path of least cost is a PHEV full of lead-acid batteries.  The problem is..."

Well, one problem is that the US government's NHTSA will not allow standard lead-acid batteries to be installed in a vehicle's passenger compartment. And yes, they consider the trunk area of a standard sedan a passenger compartment. That's why even the original Prius had to have an AGM lead-acid battery.

5x power and 10x life is great. Fast charging could be misused. If done during peak power demand we could overload the grid and transmission lines causing blackouts.
Just as bad it could require many new power generating stations that could be more coal, nuclear or other dirty non renewable power.
We need to create solutions not make more problems and be wasteful. Smaller vehicles and less travel is better for everyone. Lets not waste even clean power.
These batteries can be a blesing if we use them wisely.

A large European Industrial Group has built a demonstration mid-size crossover EV, up to 5 passengers, with 200 to 250 Km range from a 200 Kg/27 KWh existing LMP battery pack, a top speed of 130 Kmh, quick acceleration, power consumption of 96 Wh/Km to 108 Wh/Km. The technology is being transfered to China where range will probably be increased to 400 or 500 Km with the latest batteries and recharge time reduced to a few minutes. The affordable price of the China produced version will certainly surprise a lot of us.

Did you know that if they can make and sell 800 million shirts to buy one Airbus A-380 they could do the same for rechargeable batteries.

The same crossover platform could easily be transformed into a practical PHEV with a smaller or more efficent battery pack and a small efficient light-weight, Asian built, generator.

Affordable low cost high performance rechargeable batteries and PHEVs will be imported. Full EVs will follow from the same sources.

IMO, the most likely replacement for the ICE will be an all-electric combination of:

- Ultracapacitors for the most efficient regenerative braking.

- Super nanotech lithium-ion batteries like those from A123Systems for high power densities (needed for acceleration & climbing hills) as well as quick plug-in recharging for short trips (say < 20 miles).

- For high energy densities (range 300+ miles), ethanol can be reformed for fuel cells using inexpensive non-platinum nanotech catalysts like these from Acta:

I came to this conclusion a few years ago, and I don't work in the automotive industry. What Americans should become angry about are:

(1) Why the possibility of peak oil was not discussed by governments or corporations, until only recently when it's too late to prevent massive economic damage.

(2) While development of this battery has been significantly paid for by American tax dollars, profits and jobs will end up in Japan and Asia because the American auto companies and the current US administration insisted that superior batteries were vaporware, while hydrogen fuel cells must be the future when oil runs out (in a hundred years or sometime after that).

I find this whole topic vexing. On the one hand, I am thrilled to read of this technology (and there are other great Li-Ion and lead acid batt's coming out). These batteries are definately *EUONGELLION*--GOOD NEWS!

But then, as some like E-P point out, there are the hard realities of money and these companies making large profits (presumably at our expense). When these puppies come out they will be so hot-spit that we probably won't be able to touch them with a ten foot pole because of their price. They will have enough punch to them to make electric behicles and hybrids work if we put in a big enough pack, but then the price will be beyond exhorbanant. This is definatly *frustrating!*

But yet, I still share something of the optimism of Harvey D. While talk of putting up 4000 plus 5 MW wind turbines in the U.S. alone in 10-15 years seems quite simplictic and unattainable, we have to acknowledge that there is at least one great wild-card in this game. The prices of all cutting-edge electronics 'goods' are always stratospheric when they come out, but have an uncanny habit of very rapidly droping in price in the context of the ever more rapid proliforation of ever newer "cutting-edge" technology. There are so many examples of electronics technology that we all enjoy today that when it came out 10-15 years ago was unreachable. What is cutting-edge today could well be obsolete in 5 years at the rate things are going now. That means they (should) be much cheaper in 5-10 years. This is definately *encouraging.*

IMO, the use of electronics and electricity to power the drive-trains of cars will inevitably increase exponentially over the next decade or two, pushing up volumes of production. The price has to come down, and it could surpise us all how much. But then again, maybe not. But probably. :) As much as many like to think so, we don't have the far-seeing providential eye of God: we simply can't take into account of all the factors involved in the big picture.

There seems to be a good amount of talent and expertise in this group here: we should pool it and make our own battery for way cheaper. But if all fails, at least I can wait until one of you suckers purchases a big battery pack from A123 and get it from you used at half price a couple years later when you have to move or go on some other financial "diet." :)

Are you kidding?  You think 4000 turbines in 10 years is a lot?  This is a nation which builds 17 million motor vehicles a year; 4000 wind turbines in the 5-10 MW class PER YEAR would not be excessive.  That's only about 8-16 times the current installation rate of 2.5 GW/year.

Think it's not happening?  Look at the comments to this post, where stc said this:

As for wind power, just driving down I10 or I45, some company here in the Houston area is shipping dozens of wind blades daily. They are super-18-wheeler sized and quite something to see heading down the road.

The energy sources, they are a-changing.

Wind Mills Stats: By the end of this year there will be about 30 000 wind mills in operation with a total capacity of 50 000 megawatts and yearly production of 10 terrawatt-hours or 10 billion KWh. 70% are installed in Europe. The yearly rate of growth is about 20% in number put 25% to 30% in power capacity with recent much large mills.

At that rate, the power capacity could double every 3 years and the number of mills every 4 to 4.5 years.

North America potentential is many times the current total world production and we definately have the resources to do it. The cost per KWh is going down rapidly, especially with larger units, 100 + m high with good wind above 6 m/sec. With wind velocity of 8 to 9 m/sec, the production cost with 5 megawatt units can be as low as 3 to 4 cents per KWh.

Feeding PHEVs and EVs with clean wind power would be a good way to reduce pollution and fossil fuel consumption.

One last point for me:  if you have batteries such as these Li-ion cells, you don't need ultracapacitors (you would need all of 30 kg to get 150 kW of power capacity).  Depending on the cost per kWh, you may not need a fuel cell or other sustainer engine.  Cutting the number of different power systems slashes cost.

So even ultracapacitors (for stop-and-go) couldn't "earn their keep" (be cost-effective in terms of reducing battery wear-and-tear and energy losses)?

You may also be right to consider that even direct-ethanol fuel cells (only vaporware now) won't be economically competitive to this battery for long range (300+ miles).

Look at the charge/discharge rate on those cells and tell me:  if your car is packing a substantial amount of energy in a good-sized battery, what's left for an ultracapacitor to do?

Stout's Rule:  Simplicate and add lightness.

The wear-and-tear on these batteries through small charge/discharge cycles for regenerative braking would not be zero. That is, the lifetimes of these batteries could be many thousands of charge/discharge cycles, while ultracapacitors would be many millions.

Moreover, ultracapacitor charge/discharge energy losses would be a fraction of the energy losses for even these batteries.

You'd have to calculate a lifetime cost to decide whether ultracapacitors would be worthwhile for regenerative braking. They may worthwhile only for taxis, for example. In their favor is the fact that all-electric drive would allow ultracapacitors to be installed in parallel with the existing circuits with the motor/generator(s).

A stronger example in support of ultracapacitors for regenerative braking could be when designs are considered for all-electric buses.

I haven't done any calculations (I'm capable of making a rough estimate), but if you save around a cent per stop, ultracapacitors in all-electric buses may be cost-effective.

Ultracapacitors are wonderful devices, but they're not all that attractive for use in hybrids.

The problem is that while they don't store enough energy to be used standalone, their variable voltage makes them less than ideal partners for batteries. It requires a DC - DC level conversion to charge the capacitor bank from the battery or vs. vs. Losses in that converter will be at least 5%, and the converter isn't cheap. On top of that, sizing the motor and the motor controller to handle large power surges from regenerative braking boosts costs there, and doesn't really add much efficiency. Regenerative braking is fine at low speeds, but when the power levels get to the point that you *need* supercapacitors, it's probably not worth the trouble.

These nanotech batteries certainly are a magic bullet that’ll knock out a lot of the ICE market. Plug-in hybrids with ICEs should also be superseded by simpler all-electric designs using these batteries.

As you say, fuel cells may also be uncompetitive - in vehicles. Stationary fuel cells powered by natural gas & ethanol will still become popular due to efficient local co-generation of useful heat and electricity – and to offset the extra loading of the electrical grid to recharge these batteries.

But in Asia these battery-driven people’s cars will quickly become wildly popular and pose enormous problems in terms of electrical system reliability and traffic. Electricity is relatively expensive there, and pollution from coal-burning power plants will get significantly worse. To fund road construction, application of the user-pay principle would mean electricity will be taxed severely (like gasoline in some jurisdictions).

However, Asia (the continent of greatest demand and lowest costs) will also become dominant in engineering and manufacturing these vehicles. As the first generation designs saturate the market, profit margins will fall. More sophisticated designs offering greater cost-efficiency (electrically & over the entire product life) will follow.

So right now, would-be electric-car designers should exploit these nanotech batteries ASAP, and emulate Henry Ford to produce a simple standard first-generation vehicle. More sophisticated designs will follow – perhaps including ultracapacitors with the batteries (which would still be simpler than today’s hybrid electric-ICE designs).

Can some one please tell me the enrgy density please.

Thank you


Sorry to go back a few days (I was gone), but, e-poet, I was not kidding about the wind turbines. Do you have any idea how HUGE and expensive a 5 megawatt turbine is? It's another tower of Babel. Several years ago Toronto put up the largest, or close to it, wind turbine in North America, I think it was something like 3 megawatts or in that range, and it is monstrous! It would take 2 or 3 trailers to haul one of those blades down the road. You don't just put these things up all over the place!

4000 plus 5 MW turbines was the figure Harvey D gave just for Canada. It was almost 42000 for the U.S. So it's really closer to 50000 total. So no, I don't expect to see that many 5 MW wind-turbines being installed that quickly. (However, I would be very happy to be wrong here!)

But back to this battery, can anyone please explain what the "c-rate" is?

John W. The local hydro Co. is planning to install enough wind turbines to produce 10,000 MW within 10 years or an avg. of about 1,000 MW per year. This would be the equivalent of 2,000 x 5 MW units. The size of each turbine will probably average about 3.6 MW, equivalent to the present GE Model but may be closer to the 5 MW Model after 5 years into the program.

Now, if ONE HYDRO Co. can install 2 000 turbines, 10+ Hydro companies could install 4 000 ++ , if they want to?

There is a lot more high energy wind in Canada for the following 10 ++ years.


Huge wind turbines cost about $1 per watt in the 1 - 2 MW range. At 5 MW the cost will be about 70 cents a watt.

That should have been for John W.

BTW about 3,000 MW peak of wind will get installed in the USA this year. More next year.

The ramp up rate will depend on the cost of production vs the cost of gas fired electricity. At least in the near term.

Texas is installing a lot of wind to conserve natural gas to sell to the rest of the country.

Okay Harvey D, if what your local company is doing is as you say, there is hope (who is your local company anyway?). (But just for the record, to be precise, you were not talking about "equivalents" at first, remember? You specifically said "5 MW turbines," and almost 50000 of them. *That* specific feat is what I am talking about.)

But again, I do hope to be wrong! I would love to see those birds get put up just as much as anyone else. If you are right, I'll gladly buy you a beer in 10 years!

But, can anyone please explain what the c-rate for a battery is???


John w: Our local electricity producer/distributor has almost 40 000 MW of Hydro power installed and increasing at the rate of about 2.5% or 1000 more MW a year. The hydro potential is about 75 000 MW. With disastrous peak periods, the average usage (past and present) is just above 50% of the gross capacity. The wind mill power units are contracted out at a rate of about 1 000 MW a year and integrated to the nearby Hydro power lines. The total Wind Power potential is equivalent to the hydraulic. Hydro-Wind combination is ideal because you can easily stock up in the huge hydro water reservoirs when wind energy is high and visa-versa. The excess clean Hydro-Wind power is sold south of the border, specially during hot summer days when the price is very high.

Today's wind power is more expensive than existing (old) Hydro power plants but the 1.9 cents/kwh clean energy national subsidy program + larger more efficent wind mills + high energy wind + increased cost of newer hydro plants is narrowing the gap rapidly. New blades with 44% wind energy capture efficiency versus 32% from the existing one would further reduce the price gap and open up more areas since it could operate efficiently with lower wind speeds.

The late night time excess power and distribution capacity would be more then sufficient to recharge one or two PHEV per household.

A123 is great for power tools etc. but for vehicles:

Best bets - better ICEs (direct injection/HCCI etc.).

Better hybrid better regenerative braking.

Best hopes - StarRotor or PHEV using Firefly Energy's batteries. Firefly claims close to NMH energy capcity at lead acid costs. We will see if they can deliver.

C rate is ratio between batery capacity and maximum discharge current i.e. if yo have a 1Ah batt and your discharge current is 5A then you are drawing out 5C.
100C in this case means that in 50Ah pack (i.e.) means that you can go up to 5000A discharge current with no dmage to the pack...neat 8-)

Main thing that is not disclosed is OVERCHARGING PROTECTION, since Lithium batteries get easily damaged if overcharged, including the latest ones. You need sophisticated Bulky Costly charging system with which burdens the sonsumer.

How does it compares with Toshibas less than a minute charging Lithium Battery. we need authenticated test data before decision. Any user for more than a year may reply please....

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