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GM and A123Systems to Co-Develop Lithium-Ion Battery Cell for Chevrolet Volt

General Motors and A123Systems will co-develop cells with A123Systems’ nanophosphate battery chemistry for use in GM’s electric drive E-Flex system. (Earlier post.) 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.

The contract calls for A123Systems to develop battery cells to meet the specific requirements of GM’s E-Flex system. The E-Flex electric vehicle architecture was first shown in the Chevy Volt concept car revealed earlier this year. (Earlier post.)

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. 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.

—Bob Lutz, GM vice chairman of Global Product Development

The Chevy Volt will offer average commuters an all-electric range of 40 miles, potentially eliminating most trips to the gas station.

The Chevy Volt will lead the automotive industry in a new direction. 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.

—Bob Lutz

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. (Earlier post.)

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. We’re confident one, or possibly both of these companies’ solutions will meet our battery requirements for the E-Flex system.

—Denise Gray, director of GM’s Energy Storage Devices and Strategies

Dave Vieau, A123Systems’ CEO, 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. The weight, size, safety and performance of these batteries have implications on all transportation, including hybrid buses, trucks and aircraft.

—Dave Vieau

A123Systems currently manufactures more than 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.

In May, A123Systems introduced its automotive-class, large-format 32-series Li-Ion cells specifically designed for Hybrid Electric Vehicle (HEV) and Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicle (PHEV) use. The 32-series lineup initially consists of two cells with custom nanophosphate electrode designs, based on the same proven chemistry as the mass-produced ANR26650M1 cell: the 32113 M1Ultra and 32157 M1HD. (Earlier post.)

The 32113 M1Ultra high power cells are designed to meet the requirements of HEV applications, with high power by volume and cost-per-watt. The 32113 is currently designed into A123Systems’ programs with major US and European auto manufacturers.

The 32157 M1HD cell uses a higher-energy electrode design geared specifically for PHEVs, and should offer greater volumetric energy density and the lowest cost per watt-hour. Currently used in the GM Saturn Vue PHEV development program, the 32157 is designed to offer superior calendar and cycle life at high depth-of-discharge (DOD), as well as excellent power density for charge-sustaining operation.


Greg woulf

This is great news, and what I've been hoping for. Somehow it makes me nervous however. It seems that it might be tying up one of the more promising technologies somehow.

To me, the numbers are there. I've seen A123 batteries, and they meet what I think are the requirements, so this should be an easy transition.

The fact that they still make noises about the tech not being ready makes me wonder if they're using false numbers in the A123 testing that I'm using as reference, or whether GM is just tying up tech to shut it out for competitors.

The Volt, with A123, and the engine that's already been tested seems like it's ready. I think if it is ready, then it could potentially cut new fuel usage in half for buyers. I can't imagine people not spending money for that.

I know I'd buy a Volt, and I think lots of non-green people would as well, if the car was even close in price to regular.


There's good news and bad news: The good news is a possible LiIon BEV from GM for the masses maybe in good time. The bad news: A123 has sold out to Big Auto so there's one less independent player in large format batteries. Cobasys, a patent holding company for NiMH battery development, is already controlled by Big Oil. There appears to be only AltairNano and Toyota/Panasonic competing in the large format market and I may be wrong about AltairNano. Tesla, who are on their own using masses of small format batteries, and a couple of other smaller companies appear to be the only hope left for bringing BEVs to market in the near future. First we will need to go through a period of diesel-powered cars and small format battery HEVs and PHEVs before Big Auto/Big Oil will allow the market to produce BEVs in any quantity. Look for excuses and delay tactics while GM plots your future as the Diesel and the small format HEV.

The U.S, auto market has always been about who controls it and not about fair competition. If you think outherwise I've got a herd of "Flying Reindeer," I would like you to look at. No! this is not another conspiracy theory, one only need look at the facts developing over time and use your noodle to see the plan.


Interesting article in Wallstreet Journal today talking about Toyota delaying their Lithium-Ion based hybrids, but it also states the following:

"Tony Posawatz, GM's vehicle-line director for the Chevrolet Volt and related hybrid vehicles, said GM's first lithium-ion hybrid will be the Saturn VUE Green Line plug-in hybrid -- which individuals knowledgeable about GM's product plans say could hit dealer showrooms as soon as late 2009. So-called plug-ins recharge batteries by plugging into the electric grid. GM also plans to launch a plug-in lithium-ion hybrid car called the Volt by 2010."

Very good news if GM follows through on their statements.


More power to GM and A123 for doing this. Way to go guys!

Very good news for GM and A123.

Since Toyota seems to have problems (delays) with the development of their Lithium battery pack, GM/A123 may beat Toyota with mass produced PHEVs and BEVs with safe lithium battery packs.

Let's see how quickly can Toyota find an equivalent solution. Will it turn to Toshiba, Altairnano, EEStor or develop a better ESS internally?

The first manufacturer on the market may reap huge multiple benefits.

GM may not be dead yet.


GM will leapfrog Toyota if they can bring this technology to market as promised. If I can afford it, I'll be getting a Volt.


GM will leapfrog Toyota if they can bring this technology to market as promised.

GM deliver on a promise about a green vehicle? When has that ever happened?


The Volt, being a serial plug-in can cost a lot less than ICE automobiles, with volume production. There is no chance that GM can price it higher than existing ICE cars, when competition (especially from China/Korea) develops for BEVs.

This means that if SPHEV's are mass produced and prices drop due to competition, automakers will see their revenue come under pressure, while profits soar. A lot of layoffs will follow both in the auto industry and the service industry, as SPHEV's and BEVs have very little to service.

Therefore, the monopoly auto makers will fight this tooth and nail, at the cost of society, and must be goaded and cajoled into converting over to lithium-phosphate.

If indeed this new announcement where GM will work closely with A123 to develop cells results in GM gaining control over the patents and A123 losing its right to sell to GM's competitors at same prices, then this is bad news for the market and bad for the future.

Imagine nano-phosphate being controlled by Hydro-Quebec and GM. Another Cobasys in the making?

I wonder when does Hydro-Quebec's patent on lifepo expire?


Monopoly automakers?

GM, Ford, Chrysler, Toyota, Honda, Hyundai, Mitsubishi, BMW, Mercedes, Kia, Subaru, Audi...

The closest we ever got to a monopoly was over 40 years ago when GM had over 50% of the domestic market. That market share is now long gone and it's still shrinking. Now you have startups like Phoenix and Tesla testing the BEV marketplace. If they produce a product that people want, there's nothing to stop them.


If they produce a product that people want, there's nothing to stop them.

This is an unfortunately enduring American myth.

Capitalization, connections, and pure luck have lot more to do with success than making a product that people supposedly want.


Monopoly automakers?

You're right. It's an oligopoly.


I see A123 following the same path as that of Ovionics. You remember Ovionics. They were once
consider a leader in Lithium Ion batteries. Big oil
purchased Ovionics and took the company right out of the playing field for Lithium battery research and production.

Rafael Seidl

If A123 were years ahead of any competitor, an exclusive licensing agreement with a single automaker would indeed be cause for concern. The fact is, though, that there are a number of alternative approaches out there that GM's competitors may decided to latch on to in coming months. Toyota already has its supply chain lined up in Japan and Tesla is leveraging commodity products.

So what this announcement means is that GM has decided it's time to s### or get off the pot. They seem committed to avoid repeating the fiasco of the EV1, though things could change quickly if the housing bubble bursts, the US slips into recession, oil prices tumble and GM decides it can ill afford a high-profile gamble on fancy PHEV/BEV technology in the short term.

Ron Fischer

Oligopolies work through coordinated action, sometimes using market signals alone, e.g. 4 gas stations at an intersection near a freeway, watching each others' signs. When a market is as mature as that of cars, its no longer about innovating, but about optimizing profit. Decades ago auto execs joked they couldn't add gadgets to their cars unless GM did it first, otherwise they'd be priced out of sales and made to look frivolous to shareholders. GM clearly has the ability to build the Volt and much, much more if necessary. The only question for them is whether its really (in fact) necessary and how to make it maximally profitable.

Stan Peterson

Many of the conspiracists assume the auto companies are a inept and stumbling idiots; except when they are dexterous and ten feet tall and use their power to suppress all including mythical 100 mpg carburetors.

You can't have it both ways. GM has lost 25% of the US market in twenty years. Toyota is bigger than they are right now.

Those days of dominance are long gone, if indeed they ever existed. If they did exist, how did they fail? Conspirators never seem to have an answer.

Progress in the Electrification of Ground Transport is accelerating, and more visible every day.


Conspirators never seem to have an answer.

Apparently you are unable to distinguish between correct economic terminology and analysis.


You know that variable valve technology that allows you to shut off 2 or 4 cylinders of a V-8 when you're cruising to save gas? It was patented by a guy in Florida in 1976, and Shell Oil bought the patent for $10 million and sat on it for 15 years. Now, I don't know if they got taken or not, because it doesn't exactly make a passenger car get 60 mpg, but it is a classic example of a vested interest attempting to tie up an innovative (and hyped) technology to preserve their business model.

That said, I think Toyota and GM are most concerned with cost-effective batteries that won't create liabilities by being unsafe or losing their ability to hold a charge after a few years.

Paul Berg

I hope GM does not forget that when they hav succeded making green drive train and start producing and selling...the Quality in general of the car has to be greater than ever. Remember they have a whish, to get back on track and to regain some of their lost market share. This is one of the biggest reasons the japanese car makers have taken so big market share of the worlds market, not only fuel effiscensy...sorry...bad spelling... So get down to GREAT quality also, GM !!!


So get down to GREAT quality also, GM !!!

On a related note:
Buick ties Lexus in key U.S. dependability survey


Like most stories, no expectation for production of the battery is given, no cost per KWH is given, and no mention of the existing A123 cell for PHEVs is mentioned. Thus this story does not move the story any further than the earlier one about A123 working with GM to provide the lithium ion battery at some time in the future.

As for the Volt, yes the concept seems on the money with the right battery size, the right gen-set size, the right range and so ... we wait and wait in Casablanca.

geoff thomas

2 things:
1- General Motors has bankrupted many suppliers over the years- now their supplier 'ethics' now are much worse than ever before- I wish A123 success( they'll need it).
2- All this discussion over A123 and Altairnano- anybody recall Valence? (which just passed another outside review of their better inherent safety?


Valence batteries are simple lifepo and do not hold a candle to A123 nano-lifepo. The only advantage they have is in cost. In all other attributes they lag A123.

For GM to buy out the A123 patent in order to protect its own turf, namely to protect its heritage ICE machines and also to protect itself from BEV and SPHEV competition - is simply a rational business decision, albeit an unethical one and an anti-free market practice.

So nobody is calling that a conspiracy because it is not. It is an effective business strategy by GM - albeit a highly unethical and anti-market strategy, unfortunately.

That is why in order to save capitalism from itself (and also to save liberalism), monopolies and oligopolies must be smashed and outlawed.

Roger Pham

thanks, jack, for the link to
"On a related note:
Buick ties Lexus in key U.S. dependability survey"

It's good to see the "Heart beat of America" stepping up to the plate in Green Automotive. This, for sure, will set up a competition that will be good for the environment.

Although, as Rafael pointed out, the gov. must do something to guarantee that retail gasoline price will remain the level that it is today, in case Big Oil starts to get concern and lower the oil prices to kill off these PHEV developments. We have 500 bridges like the collapsed Interstate bridge in Minneapolis that are in need of repair, so a rise in gasoline tax is desperately needed to fix em' bridges and to maintain the infrastructure.


"All this discussion over A123 and Altairnano- anybody recall Valence? (which just passed another outside review of their better inherent safety? "

Yep, called Valence just the other day about getting some batteries. The group 24 size cost 2 thousand EACH.

How many do you want?

If I want to build a car with a 144v system that would be 24k just for the battery pack, never mind all the other stuff. For now I think I will stick to the old school lead acid route.


Why would they give highly sensitive information to appease your curiosity?

I would never reveal cost per kwh or any other intrinsic cost of what I put together in my products. Maybe you can get a MSRP from A123 but don't expect GM to give up information of that nature...they aren't idiots.

GM is buying A123 patents to protect their interests and shut everyone else out? Yeah, like Motorola (with millions in A123 already) is going to just standby and let that happen.

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