GM boosts work on lithium-ion batteries for hybrids

GM boosts work on lithium-ion batteries for hybrids
TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. -- General Motors is expanding its work with A123 Systems Inc., a maker of lithium-ion batteries, to develop battery packs for the automaker’s E-Flex hybrid powertrain architecture.
“I’m convinced that electrically driven vehicles is the next paradigm shift in this industry,” GM product chief Bob Lutz said today at the Management Briefing Seminars.
Today’s hybrid vehicles use nickel metal-hydride battery packs. Lithium-ion batteries, commonly used in cellular phones and laptop computers, offer more power from a smaller, lighter package.
The deal with A123Systems will help GM get vehicles such as the Chevrolet Volt concept on the road sooner, Lutz said.
The Volt, which GM unveiled at the Detroit auto show in January, uses the E-Flex powertrain architecture. E-Flex uses electric motors and battery packs, and can be adapted to a variety of power sources, such as internal combustion engines or fuel cells.
GM’s announcement of its deal with A123Systems came on the same day that the Wall Street Journal reported that Toyota Motor Corp. was delaying the launch of hybrid vehicles that use lithium-ion battery packs by at least two years due to problems with the battery packs overheating and posing a fire risk.
Toyota now is expected to start using lithium-ion batteries in 2011, the paper reported. Toyota’s lithium-ion battery packs use different chemistry than the packs made by A123Systems.
Overheating and fires have been a problem with lithium-ion batteries — last year Dell Inc. recalled laptop computer batteries due to overheating problems.
A123Systems is working with German supplier Continental AG to develop integrated lithium-ion battery packs for GM. The automaker is also working with Korean battery maker LG Chem and its subsidiary, Compact Power Inc., for lithium-ion battery packs.
GM said in January it was working with a venture between A123 Systems and Cobasys, and Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions LLC to develop lithium-ion battery packs for the Saturn Vue hybrid.
A123Systems, based in Watertown, Mass., builds lithium-ion batteries with its nanophosphate technology. Its batteries are currently used in power tools.
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