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Battery Maker A123 Systems Announces New Li-Ion Battery Technology


Lithium Ion Phosphate Auto Battery cell

Lithium Ion Phosphate Auto Battery cell

When it comes to building battery packs for electric cars, temperature extremes are the enemy of battery range. To deliver optimum results, electric car batteries need to be kept within a fairly narrow band of ideal operating temperatures.

To get around this, thermal conditioning is used to regulate battery temperature. In the case of the Fisker Karma and the Chevrolet Volt / Opel Ampera, that thermal conditioning involves using liquid coolant to maintain an optimal battery temperature.

While liquid cooling is effective, it also adds a level of cost and complexity to electric cars that a more robust battery pack wouldn’t require. As Green Car Reports tells us,  battery-maker A123 Systems believes that it’s invented the proverbial better mousetrap of the lithium-ion battery world.

The new technology is called Nanophosphate EXT, and A123 is claiming that the lithium-ion variant can operate at extreme temperature without requiring conditioning. In testing by Ohio State University’s Center for Automotive Research (CAR), the results appear to be very promising.

The Nanophosphate EXT cells have been shown to retain more than 90 percent of their energy capacity, even after 2,000 full charge-and-discharge cycles conducted at 113 degrees Fahrenheit.

Now testing in the opposite extreme is underway, and it looks like the new cells will deliver 20-percent more energy than conventional cells at -22 degrees Fahrenheit. If the cells do prove to have better power delivery at low temps, they could ultimately be used to create lighter batteries to start conventional automobiles, too.

Yann Guezennec, a senior fellow at CAR and an engineering professor at Ohio State University, called the Nanophosphate EXT cells “unlike anything we’ve ever seen from lead acid, lithium ion or any other battery technology,” which sounds suspiciously like a breakthrough to us.

For the sake of A123 Systems, we hope so. The battery maker has suffered through a March recall of its battery packs for the Fisker Karma, and gasses from A123 cells being tested recently sparked an explosion at GM’s Battery Lab, injuring several workers.

Even A123 Systems itself projects steep losses over the next several quarters, bringing its future into doubt. If the Nanophosphate EXT cells turn out to be the next big step in rechargeable batteries, that future may be more viable after all.
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