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Magna Steyr to Provide Li-ion Battery Systems for Volvo I-SAM Heavy-Duty Hybrids; A123Systems Cells

Magna Steyr’s emerging battery pack portfolio. The heavy-duty line is the first to enter series production. Source: Magna Steyr. Click to enlarge.

Magna Steyr, an operating unit of Magna International Inc., will produce lithium-ion battery systems for Volvo Group. The battery systems will be integrated into Volvo’s city buses, heavy-duty distribution vehicles and refuse trucks using the I-SAM parallel hybrid system.

Production of these battery systems, which incorporate A123Systems’ 32113 Li-ion cells, will begin in August 2009 at Magna Steyr’s facility in Graz, Austria.

As shown in the hybrid version of the 7700 bus unveiled in 2008, continuous output from the I-SAM motor is 70 kW (94 hp), with 120 kW (161 hp) peak; continuous torque is 400 Nm (295 lb-ft), with 800 Nm peak. A 600V, 4.8 kWh Li-ion battery pack is roof-mounted and water-cooled. (Earlier post.)

For years Magna Steyr has been active in the research and development of alternative propulsion systems, especially of electrical energy storage systems. This contract is proof that Magna Steyr is a leader in developing and delivering advanced technologies to our customers.

—Dr. Burkhard Göschel, Chief Technical Officer, Magna Vehicles and Powertrain

While A123Systems is developing a portfolio of prismatic automotive cells, it continues to refine its cylindrical cells. The 32113 power cell—designed for hybrid applications—is entering its second generation (Gen-1 based on a Gen-0 start), and 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. (Earlier post.)

In a presentation at the Advanced Automotive Batteries Conference (AABC 2009) last month, Dr. Peter Pichler from Magna Steyr described the company’s emerging battery pack portfolio as comprising three main lines:

  • Energy battery packs targeted for the electric and plug-in electric vehicle markets. These will range from 10-30 kWh and 30-120 kW, and use 20-40 Ah prismatic cells.
  • Power battery packs for full and mild hybrids. These will range from 0.8-3.0 kWh and 10-60 kW, and use cylindrical or prismatic cells.
  • Heavy-duty battery packs. These, which are going into production with the Volvo contract, will range from 2.5-7 kWh and 60-180kW, and be built with the cylindrical cells. The 120 kW pack is first into production. 75 kW and 180 kW battery systems are in development and are targeted to be available in 2010.

The heavy-duty line is the first to enter series production.


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A true milestone for A123. It is the first time they start mass-producing a dedicated automotive battery cell. Also interesting to hear they got Magna as a partner. The next big milestone will be in early 2010 when they start mass-producing their 20Ah cell for EV and PHEV use. A previous GCC message said they had increased the energy density of that sell by 50% compared to the original M1 cell (see This is not correct. The cells energy density is increased by 30% from 110Wh/kg to 143 Wh/kg and the battery module energy density using the 20Ah cells is increased by 50%. This can be seen from slide 22 in this presentation by Fulop A123

I mention it because several other websites are now taking about an energy density of 165 Wh/kg of A123 20Ah cell because of that mistake by CCG. Still 143 Wh/kg is the highest energy density reported for any LiFePO4 cell that I have heard about. The presentation also say that A123 now is the world’s largest producer of LiFePO4 cells and that they now employ over 2200 people. So presumably they are bigger than BYD and Thundersky in this field. The LiFePO4 chemistry is extremely important for the success of future EVs and PHEVs because it offers much lower battery cost than any other chemistry including lead acid batteries when measured per cycle and initial battery costs should also come down below that of LiCoO2 when they become truly mass production because of their lower material costs. The LiFePO4 chemistry furthermore allows for true fast charging (<10 minutes) even in cells that are designed mainly for high energy density.


I agree with Henrik.

143 Wh/kg is great energy density if true and the other benefits of the chemistry remain at this energy density (such as cycle life, power etc), and even Tesla who chase energy density more than anything else may be asking for test samples.

This could be a big game changer for HEV and PHEV progress. Remember GM are already working on the Gen2 (and even Gen3) Volt, and I'm sure they'll be talking to A123 about their cells again. LG-Chem's recent victory for the Volt contract may only have been temporary....


A123 + Magna will eventually come out with better PHEV/BEV battery packs.

However, all of A-123 multiple qualities are not enough to overcome the rather low Wh/Kg energy density.

Long range BEVs would require 600 to 700 Kg of 143 Wh/Kg batteries. That is too heavy. Practical BEVs need affordable batteries with much higher energy density, i.e. 300 to 400 Wh/Kg.

We may have to wait another 5 to 10 years for those.

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Tesla should be able to use A123’s 20Ah cell for the battery pack in the 150 miles range Model S but not in the 300 miles range Model S. The following explains why. References are given below.

Tesla’s Model S pure EV with a 300 miles range will have a 1200 lb = 540 kg battery pack with 8000 consumer cells (18650) with state of the art energy density which is 9.62 Wh per cell. Each cell weight 46.5 grams which is 372 kg of cells and the remaining 168 kg used for wiring, packing, battery management and thermal management. The total weight of Model S including the 300 miles battery pack is 4000 lb or 1800 kg. With the 9.62Wh cell the battery will be a 77 kWh battery meaning that the Model S will need 0.26 kWh per mile driven (the Roadster uses 0.22 and the iMiEV uses 0.2). This is only doable for a 4000 lb vehicle if it is very efficient with regard to its EV motor, power electronics, other electric systems and has a very low drag coefficient. The Model S’s drag coefficient is 0.27 which indeed is very low (the roadster is 0.35).

Tesla will have to use the state-of-the-art 18650 cell because it is 207Wh/kg. The A123 cell is only 143Wh/kg which will not do in 300 miles Model S but it can be done for the 160 miles Model S and likely also for the 230 miles Model S. The advantage of the 20Ah cell is that it is larger (20*3.2= 64 /9.62 = 6.6 times larger) so that less weight needs to be spent on the packing of the cell. This is why I think 230 miles is doable with A123 cells. Another advantage of using A123 cells is that they last longer than the 18650 consumer cells. They should last minimum 10 years whereas Tesla says their cells last about 7 years in normal use or 12000 miles per year. If the Model S is used for commercial applications like taxi driving, chauffeuring of corporate and government officials (40000 miles per year) it will need A123 cells to last 10 years. In this situation Tesla’s battery pack will last max 3 years. Unfortunately the A123 cells may still be more expensive per kWh than the consumer cells. My guess is A123 cells cost USD 500 per kWh in volume and that the consumer cells cost USD 300 in volume. On top add USD 60-120 per kWh for high volume battery assembly.

To conclude, EVs are doable today with the needed range to satisfy vehicle consumers but they still cost more to drive per mile than gasoline vehicles when the cost of the batteries are factored in. My belief is that a large portion of wealthy people and government and corporate officials care more about driving environmentally defendable than about driving economically. The opposite is the case for the average guy. This is why I think that EVs are commercially viable right now for high end vehicles like the Model S but not for low end vehicles like the iMiEV. This is at least so as long as cell costs are over USD 200 per kWh. For EVs to become mainstream we need battery prices below USD 250 kWh including packing. Higher energy density would be nice to have but it is not needed. The only remaining show stopper for mainstream EVs is battery costs. Focus on that.

1) Model S battery pack specifications:

2) State of the art 18650 cell:


They will need larger cells, 8000 small cells is ridiculous. They will also need to show that PHEV/EV taxi running lithium batteries 24/7 for a year in all kinds of whether and then show how much capacity that the batteries still have left.


Excellent posts, Henrik. A123's high power density and cycle life are overkill for a BEV and not worth the extra cost. Consumer LiCoO2 cells can't begin to handle the much tougher PHEV and EREV duty cycles, though, which is where A123 and other advanced chemsitries shine. These other chemistries are also much safer, a key concern for mainstream carmakers.

The main issue for Tesla, besides keeping their battery packs out of flamethrower mode, is how big the market is for a car with a $30,000 fuel tank.


Henrik they arnt using those batteries because as you would notice if you read more carefully those advanced batteries only have a 300 cycle lifespan;/

No the 1200 lb pack is the 42 kwh base pack. They dont say what the other two pack options weigh.

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I agree that current A123 cells are an overkill for the Model S. If their 20Ah cell performs as the original M1 cell in terms of cycle life it should be able to do about 7000 cycles (100% DOD at +-C1 and 25d. Celsius) with only 20% degradation. So a Model S with these cells and a 230 miles range could in principle be able drive at least 1.610.000 miles! However, A123 should be able to make a less durable cell for pure EVs that is less expensive to produce. When BYD launch their 4000 lb EV wagon later this year (250 miles range presumably) I think it will be a good indication of how low the LiFePO4 batteries can go in terms of price.

Yes wintermaine.
They are using batteries very similar to the one I stated for the model S and yes it can only do about 300 cycles to 20% degradation which is enough for at least 90.000 miles of driving and 7 years exactly as Tesla say their batteries should be good for. For the Roadster they use a little less than state of the art battery cells (was state of the art when they designed the original battery in 2006). It is a 53kWh/6800 cells= 7.8Wh 18650 cell equal to 168 Wh/kg cells at 46.5 grams per cell.

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