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A123Systems Seeking $1.84B in ATVMIP Loans to Support Construction of Li-ion Plants in US; Targeting 5M HEV Packs by 2013

A123Systems has submitted an application under the US Department of Energy’s $25-billion Advanced Technology Vehicles Manufacturing Incentive Program (ATVMIP) to qualify for $1.84 billion in direct loans to support the construction of new lithium-ion battery manufacturing facilities in the United States, with the first construction location in southeast Michigan.

If A123’s application is approved, this program would enable the company to significantly expand production capacity in the United States, with full production volumes designed to supply battery systems for 5 million hybrid electric vehicles or 500,000 plug-in electric vehicles per year by 2013.

At full operation, A123 expects the combined plants would occupy as much as 7 million square feet and create more than 14,000 jobs. These plants would produce battery cells and systems to meet the needs of A123’s automotive customer portfolio, which currently includes more than seven vehicle manufacturers and 19 vehicle models ranging from HEVs (hybrid electric vehicles) to EVs (electric vehicles).

A123Systems, with proprietary electrode technology developed at MIT, was funded initially with a $100,000 grant from the US Department of Energy in 2001. Existing A123 customers include AES, BAE Systems, Black and Decker, Cessna, Chrysler LLC, General Motors, Project Better Place, and Th!nk.

Lithium-ion battery maker EnerDel has also applied for $480 million in low-interest loans under ATVMIP (Earlier post.) If granted, those funds would enable EnerDel to double manufacturing capacity to produce 600,000 hybrid electric vehicle packs per year at its existing plant in Indiana by 2011, and to build a second larger plant capable of producing battery packs for up to 1.2 million hybrid electric vehicles by 2015.

The first tranche of applications for ATVMIP funds closed on 31 December 2008. DOE has said that it received 34 applications in this first batch. The evaluation and approval process includes four steps:

  • DOE will review an application to see if it is substantially complete. If it is not DOE will notify the applicant what additional information it requires.

  • DOE then evaluates the applicant and project to determine eligibility. If they are not eligible, the application review process will end.

  • In the third step, the proposed project will be evaluated, potential terms and conditions of a loan will be developed and a decision will be made whether to make a loan.

  • The fourth and final step is the negotiation and, if the negotiation is successful, the closing of the loan.



This investment makes more sense than bailouts..


Of all the "hand-outs" that are out there, an investment in A123Systems seems like a slam-dunk, no-brainer. I'm all in favor of this- but not the "Detroit 3's" corporate welfare.

The US sorely needs innovative home-grown industries that reduce our consumption of foreign oil.

For the US economy + global security's sake I hope they are successful.



14,000 workers to make 500,000 full size batteries for BEV works out to 58 man-hours per pack. That is a lot!, a car takes about 7.5 man-hours to produce so you can see the difference. Is manufacture automated at all?.. I think they are padding the numbers.

Also a plant in Michigan is going to be subjected to union shenanigans, does not sound like a good idea.


Brilliant. This IS what the ATVMIP funds are for. A123 will now move their production out of China back to the US where it belongs.

Unions need to accept the idea that startups like A123 will not be taking on legacy payment burdens like those of the old school auto makers.

FIVE million PHEVs/annually by 2013??? Is this Green Car Congress heaven or what?


You don't hire 14,000 line/assembly workers. You need janitors, maintenance, electricians, technicians, QA/QC, admin, security, management, hr, payroll, etc. I'm sure a large portion will be line/assembly workers and don't have any guesses for percentage distribution but it definitely won't be 100%.

Also 500,000 packs for PHEV would be one thing but if instead you said 5 million HEV battery packs then it would be 1/10th the number of man-hours per pack but the final number is likely to be some mix in between.

Reel$$ look again - 500,000 PHEV capacity 5,000,000 HEV capacity and they will probably be at some mix in between(15% PHEV [75,000]/ 85% HEV [4.25 million]???)

Stan Peterson

Yes. The size of the loan application is proportionate to the problem at hand. Finally!

This is not the same as pouring government down the rat hole producing lots of paper that no one will ever read, or care.

I hope the A123 will contract with a firm whose real expertise is automated manufacture of complex assembly on a large scale. Like one of the Detroit 3; that is after all their REAL technical competence, when you think about it.

Stan Peterson

Battery CELL, underline CELL manufacture is NOT automated. You can't just go out and order an automated Li-Ion cell manufacturing line, like you could, for say, an ICE engine line. They don't exist yet.

I assume lots of the money will go to CREATE the automated manufacturing lines. I also assume the manufacturing consortium sponsored by by the Battelle(?) Institute will be involved, too. In the long run, that is absolutely necessary. Otherwise if it stays manpower intensive, it's assembly will end up in the cheapest undeveloped land.
Automating battery pack assembly is more straight forward. Here too it needs to be created, but it is a lesser problem,. I would think from this Engineer's perspective.

Andrey Levin

Stas, you are mistaken. All batteries, of all formats and chemistries are produced on fully automated lines, with very few workers needed. That’s why price for cell manufacturing is virtually the same in China, Japan, Korea, US, or elsewhere. Most of the battery making equipment is designed and produced in US.

Google “battery winding machine”, for example.

However, assembly of individual cells into battery packs with all plumbing and wiring is quite labor intense.


Good company with a decent product. With all of the new research accomplishments, will their R&D keep them competitive in 5 years when lithim-ion and lithium polymer batteries are 4-10x as energy dense? I really hope so.


I can only assume Andrey is right.
Why do so many people assume American industry does not know how to automate?
Even Detroit, with Michigan’s labor laws requiring displaced workers the be paid to read the paper for 8 hours, has automated heavily (and pays the "workers" that sit).
Wat do think Intel is all about?
Think for crissake! don't just believe what the “flower children” say over and over.
Like Stan says – there WAS no 200 mpg carburetor.
The EV1 was not a practical design.
Detroit DOES make cars people want. (YTD Big vehicles, 28% - Small cars, 18% - HEVs 4%).
You cannot run your car on water.
Magnets do not help fuel atomization.
There is no cold fusion.

I hope so too Bryan.


Ok, so individual cell manufacture has been automated.. perhaps the solution is to make each cell with 100Wh capacity, thus pack assembly would be simpler. Exactly the opposite of what Tesla is doing. I beleive 95Wh nimh cells (maybe it was 95Ah) were available at one time.

It would be nice to get a 100Wh pack in an BEV, affordably.. forget about range extender ICE

However, assembly of individual cells into battery packs with all plumbing and wiring is quite labor intense.
Posted by: Andrey Levin | January 07, 2009 at 08:01 PM


[quote] That is a lot!, a car takes about 7.5 man-hours to produce so you can see the difference. Is manufacture automated at all?.. [/quote]

Ummm... herm, the average manufacture time for a car is over 30 man hours.

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Tks Coal Burner.. wrong units in the previous message, it would be nice to have inexpensive ($5k) 100KWh packs for BEV

I'm sure it will come.


ToppaTom wrote:

"There is no cold fusion."

That is incorrect. Cold fusion was replicated over 200 world-class laboratories, and these replications were published in mainstream, peer-reviewed journals. You will find a bibliography of over 3,000 papers and the full text from over 500 papers here:

- Jed Rothwell


I assume the plan to locate a factory in Michigan was to buy some necessary votes somewhere? Otherwise, I can't imagine why anyone would locate anything in such an anti-business state.

I'm also not thrilled with the idea of handing out my tax money to private companies...but if we're going to do it (and we are, it seems), I suppose a company like this is one of the better choices. I hope this works out.


Enerdel and A123 are both after government loans and/or loan guarantees so they can go to volume production in the US.

They seem to expect a yearly market for millions of their cells within roughly five years. w/o reading minds it is hard to say if they believe that or are just wishing.

Their approach is a contrast to Johnson Controls which has partnered with Saft. Saft is an EU company with experience in automated battery production.

The JC Saft venture was discussed a few months ago on GCC. The search tool will bring it right up.


Remember gm and ford do plan to offer a hell of alot more hybrid cars based on lithium battery tech as soon as the production can be sped up. Alot of these 5 million hev or 500k plug ins would be a combo of the volts and volt offshoots and just a metric arseload of hevs.

Stan Peterson


Thanks for your post. I did indeed go back to your Google suggestion to see if the art had progressed much, and you are correct up to a point.

Automated Machinery has been designed to mass wind tiny laptop sized flat-packs and Li-Ion tubular batteries about the size of AA batteries. I knew they existed. I could find no offers for up-sized and expanded machinery to produce automated vehicular-sized prismatic cell manufacture. A cursory look also did not show any modern equivalents of what has been termed "transfer machinery". But in today's automation terms, that would be a series of robotic handling/transfer stations ganged together, for unique tasks needed. Still someone would have to design and program such a collection. Also as indicated, someone would have to design larger versions of the machinery to which you referred me.

That is not an impossibility at all. If I left the impression I did not want to do so. All I was saying is that developmental work STILL needs to be done.

My semi-apocryphal remarks that the best firms who know how to, and do that routinely, are the manufacturing engineering departments of the Big Three and other automakers and their principal high volume sub-assembly suppliers. It was said half in jest, but there is a very valid kernal of truth there. Michigan may be cursed with Demo-doofuses in its politics, but locating suchbattery supply manufacturers, near consumption is conversant with all modern principles of "just-in-time", low inventory manufacturing practices.

I am sure that the Automated Battery Manufacturing government-industry consortia, will be heavily involved. That Consortia is forming, based on the success of the automated silicon foundry manufacturing consortia of an earlier decade.

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