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A123Systems’ Prismatic Cell Lineup: Up to 5,300 W/kg in High Power Cell, 20 Ah Cell for PHEVs

A123Systems scalable prismatic module is reconfigurable for applications ranging from 1 kWh to more than 100 kWh. Source: A123Systems. Click to enlarge.

At the Department of Energy (DOE) Annual Merit Review for the Hydrogen and Vehicle Technologies Programs, A123Systems co-founder Ric Fulop described the progress the company has made with two DOE-funded projects, one on high-power hybrid batteries, the other on plug-in hybrid battery development.

A123Systems, which began by manufacturing cylindrical format cells, is developing a portfolio of prismatic automotive cells funded through two USABC 50:50 cost share programs. The emerging prismatic lineup includes a 20Ah energy cell for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, with a targeted start of production (SOP) of 2009/2010; and 4Ah, 6Ah and 8Ah power cells for hybrids, with vehicle SOP of 2011/2012. 

At the same time, A123Systems has continued to refine its cylindrical cells, with the second-generation of the cell (Gen-1, based on a Gen-0 start) 32113 cell entering high-volume production with a major European OEM later this year. The Gen-1 cell has a capacity of 3.8 Ah. A coming Gen-2 cell, which uses a higher power and lower-cost electrode design, will offer 4.4-4.6 Ah of capacity, and is targeted for mass production start in 2010.

A123Systems prismatic power cells. Source: A123Systems. Click to enlarge.

The 32113 cell, while offering good price performance, offers only average power density. For premium power density applications, A123Systems is focusing on prismatic cells.

The three new prismatic power cells—4Ah, 6Ah, 8Ah—are targeting at mild, full and heavy-duty hybrid electric vehicles, respectively. Power density ranges from 4,590 W/kg for the 4Ah cell to 5,300 W/kg for the 8 Ah cell.

Price/performance and power of HEV cells. Source: A123Systems. Click to enlarge.

The new prismatic cells offer an significant improvement in cost per kW as well almost doubling the power density compared to the Gen-2 32113 cell.

A123Systems began work on its USABC-funded plug-in hybrid program in March 2008. The 20 Ah cell is designed for plug-in and extended-range EV applications.

The prismatic cell features an increased energy density through new anode and cell designs. New materials provide increased cycle life and energy density. On the cathode side, A123Systems has scaled up its efforts to reduce costs through improved and more efficient processes, and continues to expand cathode development to improve both capacity and energy.

At the cell level, the energy density (Wh/kg) of the new 20Ah cell is 50% greater than that of the old 26650 cylindrical cell (from 2007), while the module level energy density increased by 30%.

Scalable pack architecture allows common parts to be used for different pack designs. Source: A123Systems. Click to enlarge.

As part of the project, A123Systems is developing a flexible, scalable modular design and architecture. The pack can be liquid- or air-cooled, and has integrated electronics.

Fulop said the company had multiple commercial design wins for the 20Ah cell with major North American and European OEMS. Commercial mass production for the cell is due to start in 2010.



Good news for much higher power density (good for quick charge/discharge) and lower cost per KW of power.

What is the new Energy Density (Wh/Kg) and cost per Kwh and maximum number of cycles?


I wish Tesla would consider the A123 cells for their Model S. The only thing that vehicle misses is true fast charge capability. They say it needs 45 minutes to charge but with A123 batteries they could do it in 5 to 10 minutes. It is amazing that A123 already has improved the energy density of the old M1 2007 cell by 50%. In my calculation they now have a cell with 165 Wh/kg that can fast charge. The question is price. But for a Model S this is less important because it appeals to people that can afford the extra cost of driving at zero emissions but that can’t afford to wait over 10 minutes for fueling their car. High end pure EVs simply must be able to fast charge (<10 minutes) or I doubt that they will sell at all.


The old RAV4-EV used EV-95 batteries that weighed 18.75 kg and a capacity of 95 amp-hr at 12V. Or 60 Wh/kg. And they last forever. Still running now, in fact.

Figuring out ENERGY density from the A123 stuff is like pulling teeth. The old 26650 cells had 108 Wh/kg, so a 50% improvement would take us to 162 Wh/kg. The "module" density is 140 or so.

Nothing much to write home about.

Lithiums still aren't hugely competitive to the "good enough" strategy of NiMH cells that we simply abandoned because an oil company tied up the IP.


Suggestion: Since the Model S will be designed with swappable batteries that can be used to upgrade or downgrade the battery range why not also invite others like A123 to make their versions of the battery for Model S. The Tesla battery may be the least costly and may be able to do just enough cycles to last 100,000 miles. On the other hand, the A123 battery will likely be much more costly and be able to last over 500,000 miles (much more than needed) but it will also be capable of true fast charging which is 180kW or 30kWh in 10 minutes equal to 100 miles driving (plenty to get you home or to the next high-way fast charge station). With more choice more people will find the Model S attractive and by inviting others to bid on battery development Tesla will save scarce resources since they can’t do everything they want to do anyway.

I admit I don’t have nearly enough information to see whether this is a good idea or not (either for Tesla or for A123) but it may be a business model that is worth considering.



I would guess Tesla may have tried talking to any and all battery manufacturers but the sad state of it is that if you aren't interested in purchasing close to a million cells per year many are not interested in doing business with you or will require you to cover all of the NRE up front for development of a "module" specific to your application.


I notice that the packs are designed for use in the Chrysler ENVI concept vehicles, including Chrysler's version of the the Lotus-Dodge Circuit, in one diagram.

While Tesla still uses the thousands of the little cylindrical batteries to power their version of the same Lotus-Tesla sports car, that Lotus builds for them.

If Chrysler really introduces the Dodge-Lotus Circuit in the Fall, and it starts to sell, how long will it be before the Dodge-Lotus Circuit sports car surpasses the Tesla-Lotus sports car, which has been in "mass production" for 4 years; and is now rumored to have had Lotus deliver some 200 hundred Tesla-Lotuses?

On another subject, A123 seems to have uprated its battery pack to 20Ah, about 25% larger than the Volt 16Ah pack. It would seem that the A123 pack is destined for a slight larger, (D class?), vehicle. Or a more performant one.

It seems lots of progress has been made to provide the battery power pack for the Chrysler C200 concept vehicle, recently making the show car rounds, from the Chrysler ENVI skunk-works.

Exciting times are coming, despite the current Auto Depresion.


A123 batteries are incredible. I've been running the same ones since 2005 and they act like new:

They have an unbelievably flat voltage discharge curve.

Have to wonder though if they won't be eclipsed in a few years by this development:

Exciting times indeed.


With the ongoing A123 price/performance graph - EV's should be everywhere.

Unless one lives in it, a basic car just moves mass and could be a simple commodity with fewer parts than a riding lawn mower.

My first engineering calculator cost more than a semester of college tuition. My latest calculator is better, solar, and cost less than a pizza.

Neither item immulates auto models or Arab oil.


Someone can correct me if I'm wrong, but there is no way that A123 or any other "safe" Lithium Ion chemistry could meet the energy density achieved by the Tesla battery. Recall that Tesla used "ordinary" Lithium Ion cells and then added lots of sensors and electronics to make sure they don't blow up.

The "safe" Lithium Ion chemistries (including A123) have much lower energy densities.


"Recall that Tesla used "ordinary" Lithium Ion cells and then added lots of sensors and electronics to make sure they don't blow up."

That may be true but have you ever considered what they have to do to keep the 10-20 gallons of gasoline in your current car from blowing up?



Tesla uses ordinary li-ion AA cells. The misleading thing is that there's thousands of li-ion anode/cathode/electrolyte combinations before one even considers nano dimensions and configurations.

A more stable chemistry wouldn't need thousands of isolated monitored cells nor that expense. No thousands of cells/protection circuits are on NiMH Rav4 EVs.


You could make a 4 kwh bank using D Cell 10ah D Cell NiMH, but it would be easier if Chevron would do the right thing and make larger batteries available. Maybe the new administration should have the Justice Department look into that. It seems Cobasys was just a front for their patent abuse. Mercedes is suing them over non performance on a contract the last I heard.

Henry Gibson

If you want power use a flywheel or air tank, but if you want energy the ultimate cheap fuel for cars is a liquid hydrocarbon. If you are in France the, ultimate low carbon cheap fuel is uranium. Hydrocarbon fuels can be made from CO2, water and nuclear cheaper than $150. Have you read that GE is going to make ZEBRA batteries for hybrid locomotives and trucks. They will use the nearly the same Beta Research design now marketed by MES-DEA. High power ni-cad bipolar cells can be used for power, ZEBRA for PHEV operation and diesel for long distance. ..HG..


An interesting side note, I saw a story about a Porsche Boxer that was converted to run on compressed air. It would be possible to have a compressed air range extender...just a thought.


I meant to type any rate, here is a link showing the car. It does not have much range, but it gives some idea of what a range extender could do.

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