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A123Systems to Market PHEV Conversion Packs in 2008

Lithium-ion battery manufacturer A123Systems intends to begin marketing battery packs in 2008 for third-party conversion of hybrids to plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), according to A123Systems CEO David Vieau. Vieau made the remarks in testimony before the US Senate Committee On Finance Subcommittee On Energy, Natural Resources, And Infrastructure.

A123Systems has been working closely with Hymotion on the plug-in conversion systems. Recently, the California South Coast Air Quality Management District (AQMD) awarded the companies a contract to convert 10 Prius hybrids to PHEVs. (Earlier post.)

The Hymotion PHEV module requires minimal modification to the stock vehicle. All necessary components and safety features are integrated and contained within the module, including: batteries, power electronics, crash sensors, power electronics, charger, battery management system, safety sensors and manual-electric interlock. The system does not require removal of the OEM battery pack and can be installed in less than 2 hours, according to the companies.

After focusing on fleet testing this year, A123systems intends to market the PHEV conversion modules starting in 2008.

It will be certified to meet all applicable new car test standards and will be installed by trained mechanics in less than 2 hours, without any changes to the underlying electronics, mechanics or materially useable space of the production hybrid other than the installation of the plug in the rear bumper.

The applicable market in the US for standard production hybrids will be approaching 1 million through the course of this year. With almost two dozen hybrid models expected by the end of 2008, there will be 5 million standard hybrids on the road by 2010. At an initial 40 mile module installed price of $10,000 supported with a $3,500 tax credit, the payback period for a fleet owner with $3.00/gallon gas is 2.5 years, against an expected life of 10 or more years. The payback period for the average commuter driving 11,000 miles per year would be 5.5 years. These calculations place no value on the net reduction of approximately 100 tons of carbon dioxide and other emissions over the life of the vehicle and take no account of the cost reductions which could accrue from additional materials research and increasing production volumes.

—David Vieau

Vieau urged the senators to apply any tax incentive applicable to customers of factory original plug-in hybrids some years out to tested, standardized plug-in modules offered earlier by qualified companies.

We estimate a fivefold increase in demand for these modules from an increasingly responsive American public as a result of providing for this early responder tax credit.

—David Vieau

The current Hymotion/A123Systems PHEV module is a 5 kWh pack that operates only in the all-electric mode of the conventional Prius—i.e., maximum charge-depletion mode. (As a contrast, the Energy CS Prius—which replaces the OEM pack—has two modes of operation: EV mode and a blended mode designed to deliver better emissions performance.)

A Hymotion PHEV was one of several plug-ins already tested by Argonne National Laboratory to assess fuel economy, energy consumption and emissions. Among their conclusions, the researchers found that NOx and THC emissions from both the Hymotion and Energy CS packs exceeded those of the production Prius in city cycle testing. (Earlier post.)

The issue is currently faced by all the PHEV conversions. The production Prius loads the engine and warms the catalyst during cold-start operations to meet SULEV emissions standards.

With the maximum charge-depletion operation of the Hymotion Prius, the engine is used when a speed or power threshold is reached. If the power required form the engine is large before the catalyst is warmed up, the emissions may be impacted significantly.

—“Testing and Analysis of Three Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles”

Argonne test results found that while NOx and THC emissions for the production Prius and the PHEV Prius were similar on the first test cycle, subsequent cycles had higher emissions levels for the PHEV since the engine temperature and catalyst temperature were not at the proper operating level.

In consecutive city cycle testing, Argonne found that fuel economy for the PHEV ranged from 148 mpg, up to 200 mpg, and down to 66.4 mpg as the battery depleted. Highway cycle results yielded fuel economy ranging from 112 mpg down to 62.4 mpg.

Calculated Energy Results for Hymotion PHEV Prius for UDDS Cycle
Factor Value
Charge depletion distance [mi] 29.9
UF Weighted Fuel Economy [mpg] 94.6
UF Weighted Electric Usage [DC Wh/mi] 58.4
Petroleum Displacement Factor 0.474
PHEV Equivalent range [mi] 14.2

The Argonne researchers also use a Utility Factor weighted analysis to calculate composite fuel economy and energy usage. A petroleum displacement factor (PDF) characterizes how aggressively electrical energy used in charge-depletion mode displaces petroleum as compared to the charge-sustaining operation of the vehicle. The PHEV-equivalent mileage is the calculated range of the vehicle if it were to operate purely as a full electric vehicle. (See table at right.)

Based on this initial testing project, the Argonne team concluded that there are three primary areas of research required “to create a successful PHEV”:

  • The trade-off of battery cost to petroleum displacement.

  • Emissions control strategies in charge-depletion operation to maximize petroleum displacement while emissions during cold starts and the many engine restart conditions.

  • The impact of reduced engine efficiency due to operation under reduced load during charge-depletion mode.


  • David Vieau Testimony

  • Testing and Analysis of Three Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (SAE 2007-01-0283)



grgo, you know and I know that the conditions that you placed with your response -- "highway capable pure electric cars that don't cost more than the ICE paradigm" -- preclude success at this time.

I bothered to comment on this particular post, rather than strew rose petals in front of Tesla and Phoenix -- examples that pure electric cost more -- because, at present, plug-ins still need an ICE ranger extender. What goes unsaid in your retort is the industry fear that someday such a thing could be possible, i.e., EV40 rather than a PHEV40.

Roger used my comment to reiterate a strategy implicit in the article. Unfortunately, this is business as usual thinking, never mind the polar ice caps, thawing methane, etc.

I am saying something a little different than the post or Pham strategy. It isn't very original. Basically, I am trying to extol what I perceive as wisdom, i.e., the Frank axiom -- Big Electric, Little ICE, who BTW has been making PHEV60 for some time.

Yes engineers, if not poets, like to consider loops, coils, and sensors. Fine! Unfortunately, it is past time, or, at least the 11th Hour, to be thinking outside the ICE, or in this particular case. the box that Toyota engineers built and Toyota marketers approved. (Pay no attention to the PHEVs they are testing.)

Forgo the cost analysis for the moment. It is the Right Thing to do; it is what Knut wants.
Isn't he just adorable, lolz?


Another interesting statement made by A123 to congress was (paraphrasing):

"We have been chosen to supply the LiIon batteries for the original equipment plug-in hybrid sedans and SUVs of GM and *several other major American and European manufacturers* that are to be produced within the next 3-5 years."

I wonder who the European PHEV makers are? Both Renault and Audi have made them in the past.



Good catch. This is major news; I hope this guy isn't simply blowing smoke for the benefit of congress.



If you're trying to say that people need to take fossil fuel use reduction seriously, you're preaching to the choir on this site.

I'm an engineer myself and have known both engineers and marketing people at Toyota and other car companies. They are fully aware of problems facing our economy and planet. They, as with almost all engineers, love thinking outside the box about new possibilities. However, when it comes to what you and the rest of the public will buy at any given time, their actions (unlike thinking) are constrained by a little box called reality.

If you wish to write poetry about fully electric cars, I'd be happy to see you post it to this site. But please don't imply that working automotive engineers either aren't creative enough or they are so uncaring as to not even bother thinking about every possible solution.

The fact that US gas mileage efficiency is so low compared to almost everywhere else on Earth, might rightly be described as business as usual. But the fact that fully electric cars are not economically competitive with ICE yet is simply a reality. That will change only through hard work and engineering, not simply wishing it were so or convincing people that it should be so.

Rafael Seidl

In a factory-installed PHEV drivetrain, you could have the engine plus regular tranny in the front and, the battery and electric traction motors in the rear. The two drive systems are co-ordinated but there is no need for a third electric traction motor in the front.

In electric-only mode, the car would be RWD. If the batteries are water-cooled, they can warm up the engine block and oil. Once the juice runs low and the ICE has to be fired up, the car would switch to FWD. During engine warm-up, the rear motor/generators would be controlled to augment torque demand, forcing the engine to run at medium RPM and high load. This artificial load is essentially transparent to the driver, since it can be reduced or even reversed (AWD) immediately as and when additional acceleration is required.

The above strategy ensures high exhaust enthalpy and therefore, rapid heating of the three-way catalyst - especially if the engine and monolith are fairly small to begin with. Once the engine is warm, it should be kept running until the car is parked, with the exception of idle-stop operation. The battery charge rate should drop to the rate required to keep the engine in its island of low SFC, but no more. It's cheaper to recharge from the grid.


All I want is a small highway capable EV with 20 - 40 miles of range. That's it. And YES, I'd pay as much for it as a regular economy car.
I only drive 4 miles to work! The stores are only a couple of miles in the other direction. But I have two young boys with carseats, so I need car!

How hard can it be to take a Chevy Aveo, rip out the engine, tranny, gas tank, and stick in a motor and battery! I DONT NEED A 300 MILE RANGE and I'm sick of hearing that as an excuse for the complete lack of EV choices. We can upgrade the batteries later, these things should be plug and play anyways! Just start building the damn cars already!


With throttle by wire, making such operation as Rafael describes transparent to the user is within reach. The pedal would then relate position to percentage of available acceleration rather than percentage of throttle opening and be semi-independant of actual engine load so long as the desired acceleration is maintained.

Ron Fischer

A writer on another blog pointed out that even current option choices on new cars are carefully constrained by automakers to ensure maximum profit. Want side air bags? Those are only available if you buy the wood trim and 6 CD sound system. So, while we'd all love to buy the plug-in option for our Yaris (or Mini...), we're not likely to get it until automakers can tie it to buying the 6 CD changer, side, ceiling and floor airbag options package in one go... We get the illusion of choice, and accept the neccesity of profit.


This is from the Hymotion website:

"Q1 - When can I get my Toyota Prius and/or Ford Escape Hybrid installed with a Hymotion plug-in kit?
Our PHEV kits are currently available only for government and fleet use. However, we are working to ship PHEV kits for consumer use early in the new year, 2007."

Obviously nothing has been updated on this isuue since late 2006. What we see is that fleets, like governments, get some possibilities, but for end consumers, a ready made, mass produced pack, continues to be just beyond reach. Better to look at todays solutions, in terms of smaller cars and economical engines.


Poor little knut
He is so sad.
When they told him
The Last Glacier melted
He let our a little whimper.

To make him happy
His keepers promised
To take him to Dubai
For skiing.

(With the book deal
knut can afford it.)

He will look so cute
In his little flak vest
In Condi Cameo no less
As he schlusses away.

Sodann das Happy End


No the reason for the oddball opions packages is simple.

1 engineers arnt sane.

2 Most times car makers hang one option off anouther because the first has something the second uses...

Common hang points.. ac, siund system, engine model, moonroof. To get the airbag you need power THERE. BUT!!! they only run wires there for the sound system IF its xspeaker.. in wich case the airbag can be wired to the same line as the speaker...

This is why people in alaska have ac;/ ithout it all sorts of gizmos dont fit.


My own personal suspicion about manufacturer profits influencing Hybrid, PHEV, or pure EV vehicle introduction to the market is thus. While i agree that the manufacturer wants maximum instant profit by packaging the moss covered three handled family credenza with the air bags OR NOT allowing you to get the moon roof with the air bags etc. etc; and while i agree that engineers are entirely unfathomable, i have a wonder if it is not the social engineers at work here who have run the models and worried that with these long paybacks and deeper human investment in a more environmentally sound personal vehicle purchase if they are not terriified at loss of profit over time because people will hang on to these vehicles longer; and thus, reduce the volume of long term sales. In the age when people thought nothing of running though ten Pintos in their lifetime, maybe the companies have a concern that perhaps one HEV will keep them satisfied a lot longer as was seen with the passion demonstrated over the " do not crush" outcry. Of course there are always going to be the consumers who want to unlaod the thing on the next guy before they find out when that battery pack coughs up a hair ball but i bet the manufacturer is betting the other way.


I can't believe anyone here is stupid enough to believe that engineers decide the contents of automotive options packages; marketers and bean-counters do.  Well, I've suspended my disbelief of what comes from wintermane, but still...

Patrick has it quite wrong.  Shifting between FWD and RWD changes the handling characteristics of the vehicle quite a bit.  The shift he describes as "effortless" would be very unsafe.


No, I am not wrong about anything. It really would be quite easy to conduct. I made NO mention of handling characteristics or safety (which actually would be quite easy to "handle" with individual electronic control of each rear wheel changing yaw rates and traction at will and dynamically).

I said DISCONNECTING ENGINE LOAD from PEDAL POSITION but still MAINTAINING ACCELERATION at the expected rate could happen transparently.

Oh my, it must be so terrible for all the vehicles which dynamically route power front to rear...the RX400H, Lamborghini Diablo, and Nissan Skyline GTR & GTS-4 must be horrid to drive! Heck, the RX400H ALREADY USES THE SYSTEM DESCRIBED previously!!!

I think you need to turn in your PE (if you have one).


AWD sports cars are now analogous to PHEV retrofits?

I'd like to see you provide some proof of your assertion for a retrofit PHEV with a pure-EV mode driving only the rear wheels (what Rafael described), which the RX400H certainly is not.

Shaun Williams


I understand your frustration.

Every day I drive to work plug in my EV, drive home, plug in my EV. I pay a Green utility 20% more to generate the renewable energy consumed. What's the big technical deal? It's a joke how simple it is, yet of the 4 million vehicles registered here in Queensland only THREE are BEV's.

This same state is the world's biggest coal exporter, yet hundreds of scientists (not just from the IPCC but locals as well) are telling us that our greatest tourist attraction, the Great Barrier Reef, will be gone in a few short decades, cyclones are going to be more intense resulting in billions of lost dollars in property and agriculture, etc, etc, etc.

Waiting for market forces to change the paradigm is an absurdity, look how many Climate Change sceptics post on this site alone. While there's this much "uncertainty" the market won't budge from the path jcwinnie spells out.

However this is precisely why A123 have no choice, they have to play the same game or always remain a small player. I'm praying that their batteries drop in price as a result (recently quoted USD$18,000 for 10kWh) AND remain in the retail market, as they are the energy storage of the day.

What the world needs desperately is strong policy leadership. Leadership that understands that there is a really big problem that needs fixing now, not when Toyota can convince Mums and Dads that they were only joking about it being inconvenient to plug in an electric car.


That $1,800 per kWh is the same as the final catalogue (ie marked up) price of a single spare A123 drill battery module, including all its casings and accessory electronics.

I can only imagine that the price to produce the drill batteries is a good bit lower than this, and that mass production should eventually bring the automotive batts down to the price level of mass produced 18650 lithium-ion ($300 per kWh at factory). Ramping up to this just takes time and a willing market (which there is).

Herm Perez

The A123 cell used in Dewalt tools is 6.9wh each (2.3Ah * 3Vdc), a 5kwh pack would consist of 725 cells.. estimated cost of cells from the factory is $3.45 per cell so an approximate materials cost of $2500 per pack.. of course this is assuming they dont use larger cells instead of the small cells used in Dewalt tools.

BTW weight of 725 cells is 113lbs. You can buy Dewalt 36v powerpacks in Ebay for usually $115, ripping the pack apart to extract the cells would be a lot of work and waste for 725 cells.
Hopefully the prices will come down.. Been using these cells in RC airplanes, very tough cells, recharge in 15 minutes.



You said, "Shifting between FWD and RWD changes the handling characteristics quite a bit. The shift he describes as 'effortless' would be very unsafe."

What does your statement have to do with PHEV? I directly addressed your incorrect assumption with REAL world examples. The Lamborghini Diablo & Nissan Skyline GTR drive as FULLY RWD vehicles until traction becomes limited at the rear wheels at which time power is transferred to the front wheels. The power split can go to at least 80% front 20% rear (theoretically 100% transfer of power but I'd have to know the front and rear final drives to find the actual torque split). 100% rear drive vs. 80% fwd 20% rwd would give HUGE changes in handling characteristics, yet both cars do just fine.

Shaun Williams

Clett, I wish!

My calculations are based on a $12.25 / cell quote, that's $122.50 for a DeWalt pack of ten, less than half the final catalogue price of $290.00.

Herm Perez,

eBay prices are tempting but a big risk when investing a lot of your own money. The info that you RC guys have posted on the web on A123's is fantastic.


Engeneer poet... Ididnt say they cobtrol all the options but yes they make many combos a living hell to cost out.
Its engibeers first bean counters second marketers last.
If the car cant fit it nothing beanies or sales drones can do. Also if option c requires the wiring from option a nothing marketing says will change it specialy if it saves money and thus is backed by bean counters as well.
Now yes marketers have to sell it for engibeers to actualy build it and bean counters need to ok everything.. but unless engineers can get it to fit its not going in.



There are dozens of conversion shops around the US; try searching for one.

Also, EVFinder.com


why don't they just bring back the Rav-2 EV? or the EV-1?

Both vehicles were affordable, everyone who leased them begged to be allowed to buy out the leases, they had a range of @75 miles (that would more than handle my daily routine and I could use my grease car for long trips), and they didn't need to be serviced as often .....

Oh yeah, now I remember. It wasn't the engineers who killed those cars, it was the number crunchers at the top. They had the batteries, they had waiting lists of paying customers. THey also had cars that didn't need regular oil changes (how much of a dealership's profits come from auto sales vs. repairs/maintenance), just minor maintenance.

Then the California Air Resources Board morphs into the petroleum-profit-protection-agency and put the nail in the coffins of the vehicles.

The big question isn't when will the technology meet the demand (it has in the past - even the old GEO Metro got 50mpg and it wasn't even a hybrid). The big question is has anything changed since Big Oil and Big Car Manufacturers got together with Big Government to kill the Electric Car? (BTW, does the government still give that monumental tax deduction for buying the Hummers?)

Just Watching

All things considered the hydrogen fuel cell is a primary battery that is not rechargeable. It must be supplied with very clean hydrogen and oxygen. Putting enough hydrogen in a portable tank to provide electricity to propell a electric motorcar 100 miles is a very ineficient from the energy stand point. If you start with 100KW of electrical energy to put hydrogen in a tank 60KW will be used to get the hydrogen from its compound H2O and compress it in the tank. The fuel cell is doable but the hydrogen supply will be very difficult to manage.
If we use all electric motor cars with secondary batteries it is more effeciant but we still have the question of (WHERE DO WE GET THAT MUCH MORE ELECTRICITY?).
Phoenix Motorcars has a all electric SUT and SUV with a 35KW/hr battery and they clame a 10 min. recharge time.
Do a little math here and you will see it will take a substation to provide power for a 10 min recharge. No matter how you pencil whip this problem there must be more electricity generated to keep this country moving.
The Europian countries have been working at this from the end of WWII and are far along in this. When they phased out the steam train they put electric lines over the rails and started using all electric trans with big bateries in the tow motors and a pigtail to contact the overhead power line. We built a hybrid Diesal electric engine and then went to work distroying our rail and electric public transportation in all our cities.
I have traveled in Europe and I never needed a car because they have a electric transportation system in place.
Gremany moving to solar power and is now near 20% all solar electric and will soon be 30%. Nobody told them solar won't work. Wind and hydro energy is another form of solar.
The research has been done but still we do nothing here. It is time to stop studying and go to work with what we have now, like the people in Europe are doing!

Just Watching

You can get high capacity lithium cells that are made in China. 100 amp/hr and greater. They are resonabl in price and do not exibit thermal runnaway problems and are of a chemistry that does not use a combustable electrode. Unlike the Altair and the A123 cells these are available to anyone that wants them.
I called the U.S. supplier and they are ready to deliver now. They will even assemble the battery to your needs.

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