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USABC Awards $15-Million Battery Technology Development Contract to A123Systems

8 December 2006

The United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), an organization composed of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation, has awarded a $15-million lithium iron phosphate battery technology development contract to A123Systems. (Earlier post.)

USABC awarded the contract in collaboration with the US Department of Energy (DOE) to develop lithium iron phosphate battery technology for hybrid-electric vehicle applications. The contract is for 36 months with a focus on systems that are high-power, abuse-tolerant and cost effective.

USABC is a consortium of the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR). Supported by a cooperative agreement with the DOE that provides up to 50 percent of the USABC budget, USABC’s mission is to develop electrochemical energy storage technologies that support commercialization of fuel cell, hybrid and electric vehicles.

A123Systems’ contract involves developing the next-generation lithium iron phosphate battery. The goals for this program are significant increases in power, reduction in cost, high abuse-tolerance and long battery life.

The new contract is A123Systems’ first with USABC.

Founded in 1992, the United States Council for Automotive Research (USCAR) is the umbrella organization for collaborative research among DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation. The goal of USCAR is to further strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research and development.

December 8, 2006 in Batteries, Hybrids | Permalink | Comments (15) | TrackBack (0)

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Concerned that this may skew A123 efforts away from batteries suitable for plug-in hybrids and pure BEVs (high energy vs. high power). Also hope they can see the risk tying up with a big automaker consortium (though their finances may not allow otherwise). Many EV parts makers tied up with auto companies in the 90s, ramped up for volumes that never appeared, and withered away when the California ZEV mandate was gutted. Whatever the risk, if the A123 research pans out and the product is produced it will be a step forward.

I don't think there is as much risk in this case. They already have a contract for the cordless power tool company and the technology for hybrids is more mature with a definite market growing so if this doesn't pan out A123 should still be around from core business.

Does anyone know if anything positive has ever come out on this particular Consortium? It would be nice to believe these car companies got together on electrical storage for the betterment of mankind or their industry. But they've been around for a while, chewed through some cash and I'll be damned if I can figure out what's been accomplished. On another cynical note, although 15 million sounds like a lot, it amounts to a couple hours of our current Iraqi liberation efforts.

Well, the APCO committee for radio standards (after the OK city federal building bombing and 9/11) has taken nearly half a decade just to agree upon and rollout phase I standards (of 3 separate phases) and this is a group in which all the major manufacturers are participating along with the government bodies. I wouldn't expect this consortium to be able to move much faster than that at producing anything of worth.

Lee Dekker:

You have a very good point. If anybody knows exactly what USABC has 'concretely' accomplished in the last 10 years, could you please disclose it.

This financing is (most probably) good news for PHEV/EV batteries accellerated development?

Don't count them out just yet. Ford did develop a hybrid system similar to Toyota's. GM, DaimlerChrysler and BMW came together to do the 2mode hybrid system.

And Holden the Australian arm of GM did this in 2000 - the Eco Comomodore:
http://autoweb.drive.com.au/cms/A_52517/newsarticle.html

"Performance Efficiency

The parallel hybrid technology used in the ECOmmodore — where a 50kW electric motor and a lightweight 95kW petrol engine share the drive load — is not new. What makes this hybrid powertrain unique (also low-cost, practical and powerfully effective) is a creative combination of CSIRO-developed supercapacitors, which absorb energy and can deliver it to the electric motor very quickly; long-lasting lead acid batteries and advanced electronic control systems.

When the ECOmmodore is accelerating, petrol and electric engines combine to deliver the necessary surge of power. When it is cruising, or idling, the petrol engine switches off and the electric motor alone takes over.

Features of the compact 2.0 litre Holden engine include an all-aluminium block, spun cast iron alloy liners, floating piston pins for reduced friction and an electric water pump. Accessory loads — air conditioning, compressor, alternator, etc — have been deleted. Recently developed lubricants are used for engine and drive systems.

Regenerative Braking

The ECOmmodore further reduces energy wastage via a regenerative braking system which converts the kinetic energy normally lost in braking into electric energy, which is stored in its supercapacitors and batteries for later use.

Solar Cooling

The use of solar energy for cabin cooling also minimises fuel consumption by reducing the load on ECOmmodore's air conditioning system. Energy generated by a solar panel bonded to its roof drives a fan which continually pumps fresh air into the car, even when it is parked, replacing warm air with ambient temperature air."

A123 is a spin-off of MIT developed proprietary battery technology. Apparently, they enjoyed plentiful financing, high media exposure, and prefential treatment for their no question good batteries. So far, they were the leaders, no doubt about it. However, they failed to be the next “big thing”. Battery technology is too tough to be perfected in couple of years. Line of their power tools is a failure. Their batteries are far from satisfactory to be universally used for HEV and PHEV. Interesting note: current Ni-Mh batteries, being mainstream of HEV, was invented 50 years ago, went into production 25 years ago, and become mainstream 10 years ago. Quite long development cycle.

The biggest promise A123 batteries hold is potentially low cost. Cathode material is based on manganese compound, which potentially is way cheaper than Altair titanium based cathode.

It is good thing that they got financing for further R&D of their very promising technology. All in all, there is plenty of room for any battery venture in huge battery market. Lets competition decide which battery will be the best for particular application.

Andrey: "Line of their power tools is a failure"

Would you mind expanding on this a little. I was under the impression that the DeWalt line was a big success (according to freinds in the construction industry)

How ironic! Our government does not think funneling money into these emerging Litium battery technologies is a good investment? We currently buy and use about 14 million barrels of oil a day for transportation. At $62 a barrel, that is about $868 million every day. A significant portion of this money end up in the hands of governments that finance attacks agains our troops. One billion dollars was pledged for a Hydrogen economy that will never be able to compete with pure electric motor/lithium battery drivetrains (such as the Tesla motors). It is time for our government to start putting billions of dollars into these emerging technologies so that they can license all car companies to allow them to collectively save R&D money and do what they do best: build the 17 million cars we put on the road every year. If they can't figure out where to get the money from, then tax every vehicle with a gas mileage below a combined 25 mpg. For each mile below 25 mpg, collect $20 a year at the DMV.

Freddy,
They have, with investments in SOFC, advanced photovoltaics, ruggedized hybrid powertrains w/electric stealth modes, airborne vehicle wing and body designs, alternative fuels among other efforts (some classified). DARPA, DOE, and a host of other govt agencies have projects ranging from basic science (often with academic institutions in it with them), to demonstrators, to R&D with companies for deployable equipment. Granted, some are pork tainted, or vested interests, but most are legit and likely will yield tangible results.

USABC defined the battery goals so that we can judge how far off we are from what needs to be achieved.

for anyone doing research, this is invaluable. if you don't have a solid definition of the goal, how can you compare technologies and decide what path to pursue?

Neil:

Only Dewalt uses A123 batteries, other manufacturers use different Li-ions, Milwaukee for example uses E-moly li-ions. A123 have tremendous patent infringement law suit ongoing from Texas University and Hydro Quebec. Also, there were complains about numerous technical problems with their batteries (thought I can not find reliable public announcements, but rumors are plentiful). And the batteries by itself are not outstanding, check parameters at:

http://72.14.253.104/search?q=cache:uLGxFIIY2gkJ:www.slkelectronics.com/DeWalt/index.htm+dewalt+a123&hl=en&gl=ca&ct=clnk&cd=1

Well, I admit, that "failire" was overstatement from my part.

Honesty, integrity and a persuasive mentality are the most important qualities of an elected official

Not much on my mind right now. Today was a complete loss. So it goes. I've just been sitting around waiting for something to happen. I've basically been doing nothing , but I guess it doesn't bother me.

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