A123 Systems announces cold/hot weather battery breakthrough amid financial woes
Amid worries that A123 Systems might be unable to continue as a going concern, the company announced today a battery technology breakthrough, which the company calls Nanophosphate EXT, allowing batteries to "operate at extreme temperatures without requiring thermal management." The breakthrough would "significantly reduce or eliminate the need for heating or cooling systems," reducing complexity of products utilizing A123 cells, and improving the effective energy density of those products. By itself the breakthrough would enable electric vehicles to be usable in a wider range of temperature zones, and a few percentage points increase in effective energy density, but this comes at a time when the company desperately needs some good news to counter-act the bad news circling around A123.
"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. 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," said David Vieau, CEO of A123 Systems.
When an electric vehicle or grid energy storage system is designed, the battery pack design consists of the cells, and other equipment designed to keep the cells within appropriate operational characteristics. A box is required because the cells might expand during charge or discharge, and to reduce the chance of damage in case of collision. A battery management system is required to balance the state of charge in each cell, and to prevent when cells from being discharged below a voltage where the cell can be damaged. Finally, thermal management systems are required to prevent damage when cells are overheated, or to keep cells warm enough in cold weather to operate well. All these systems add to the weight, complexity, and battery pack costs.
A123's announcement addresses the last of those, thermal management. The company's Nanophosphate EXT technology is designed to maintain long cycle life at extreme high temperatures and deliver high power at extreme low temperatures. Testing at The Ohio State University's Center for Automotive Research (CAR) shows A123's Nanophosphate EXT, when the cells are charged/discharged at over 113 degrees Fahrenheit (45 degrees Celsius), that they retain 90% of capacity even after 2000 charge/discharge cycles. Testing in cold temperatures has just begun, but the company expects that at -22 degrees F (-30 degrees C) the cells will deliver 20% more energy than other cells which lack the Nanophosphate EXT technology.
This means Nanophosphate EXT battery packs can operate for long periods of time in hot weather without damage, and are less susceptible to cold weather.