A123 Systems secured a contract with Chrysler earlier this week because it created a battery that could be used across a number of vehicles reports the MIT Technology review.
Chrysler plans on rolling out five or so different electric, range extended vehicles in the next year, so it was important that the battery be adaptable to various car types. By using the same type of battery, the cost should come down as production ramps up:
MIT: A123’s technology also lent itself to relatively simple battery packs, Rhodes says. The cells use a lithium iron phosphate electrode that is chemically much more stable than the lithium cobalt oxide used in most laptops and in some electric vehicles. Cobalt oxide batteries have been known, in very rare cases, to catch fire in laptops. To prevent this in the much larger and potentially more dangerous battery packs in electric vehicles, companies such as Tesla Motors have designed elaborate cooling systems that carry coolant past each of the thousands of cells in the pack. Because iron phosphate cells are less prone to overheating, the coolant system can be far simpler. The battery modules sit on a heat sink–flat metal sheet–which is cooled by a coolant loop.
A123’s battery chemistry does have a disadvantage compared with some other types of lithium ion batteries, including cobalt oxide. It stores less energy, which would limit the range of a car. But Chrysler is making up for this in part by taking advantage of the battery’s stability. Cobalt oxide deteriorates quickly if a battery is completely discharged and recharged; to make such batteries last longer and keep them more stable, they’re typically electronically limited to using only half of their energy. But A123 says that its iron phosphate batteries can be discharged almost completely without degrading; the result is that more of the energy in the battery can be used. In Chrysler’s electric vehicle, the battery pack can be discharged to 10 per cent charge to provide a range of up to 200 miles–comparable to the range in similarly sized batteries with chemistries that store more energy.
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