US-Backed A123 Claims Battery Breakthrough

Rep. Cliff Stearns (R-Fla.), a fierce critic of government support for cleantech companies (except when they’re in his district), lists A123 Systems as an Obama administration failure, noting that the battery maker was awarded a $249 million Recovery Act grant before running into trouble and laying off workers.

The congressman might want to consider revising his list.

A123 nanophosphate ext

image via A123 Systems

A123 wowed the world yesterday when it unveiled a new lithium ion battery technology that it says can operate at extreme temperatures without expensive and weighty thermal management systems. The company called the energy storage technology a game-changer, and a lot of people seemed to agree: By the end of the day, A123’s stock was up 36 percent on the news.

“We believe Nanophosphate EXT is a game-changing breakthrough that overcomes one of the key limitations of lead acid, standard lithium ion and other advanced batteries,” CEO David Vieau said in a statement.

“By delivering high power, energy and cycle life capabilities over a wider temperature range, we believe Nanophosphate EXT can reduce or even eliminate the need for costly thermal management systems, which we expect will dramatically enhance the business case for deploying A123’s lithium ion battery solutions for a significant number of applications.”

The Waltham, Mass.-based company, which has a new factory in Livonia, Mich., said testing at Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research showed that cells using the new technology could retain at least 90 percent of their capacity after 2,000 full charge-dischage cycles at 45 degrees Celsius (113 Fahrenheit) while delivering 20 percent more power at temperatures down to -30 C (-22 F).

In its announcement, A123 quoted Yann Guezennac, a senior fellow at the Ohio research center, saying the performance of the technology at high temperatures “is unlike anything we’ve ever seen from lead acid, lithium ion or any other battery technology.”

Guezennac said the technology could be especially valuable in the microhybrid vehicle segment. These are cars that automatically turn off the gas engine when it’s not in use, if even for brief periods, like when idling at a traffic signal, and then immediately start the motor back up when it’s time to go. You can see why they’re also called stop-start vehicles.

Sports columnist, newspaper desk guy, website managing editor, wine-industry PR specialist, freelance writer—Pete Danko’s career in media has covered a lot of terrain. The constant along the way has been a fierce dedication to knowing the story and getting it right. Danko's work has appeared in Wired, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.

    • Glenribbeen

      Important work here.  Indeed a game changer.