Lithium-ion battery-pack maker A123 Systems, whose customers include General Motors, Fisker and ALTe, reached an agreement to make battery packs for Via Motors, which next week will unveil what Via says will be the world's first extended-range plug-in pickup truck, SUV and van.

A123's 24-kilowatt hour battery pack will help give the Via trucks, called VTRUX, an all-electric driving range of as much as 40 miles before the truck's gas engine is engaged to provide another 360 miles or so on a full tank. Via's board of directors includes former General Motors Vice Chairman and Chevrolet Volt developer Bob Lutz, who will be unveiling the VTRUX at the Detroit Auto Show next week. Lutz joined Via's board in September.

A123 is hoping the agreement marks a turnaround of sorts for a company that's lately been beset by challenges. The company late last month said that some of the batteries it made for the Fisker Karma extended-range plug-in sports sedan may cause the extended-range plug-in to short circuit because improper alignment of the batteries' hose clamps may cause coolant leaks in "certain rare circumstances." In November, A123 laid off 125 workers at two Michigan plants because of Fisker's delays in launching sales of the Karma. That same month, A123 also cut its 2011 revenue forecast because of fewer-than-expected Karma orders. A123 reduced its 2011 sales forecast by $45 million to between $165 million and $180 million. The battery maker, which went public in September 2009, has reported losses every quarter since 2008.

Earlier last year, A123, which was founded by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) professors in 2001, won supply contracts with companies such as General Motors and ALTe, and was one of three-dozen companies tapped to receive about $3 million of the $175 million in U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) grants to be used to further develop vehicle technology aimed at boosting light-duty vehicle fuel economy by more than 75 percent by 2025.

Via is looking to start production next year and hit an annual target of 20,000 vehicles over the next few years. The company grew out of Raser Technologies, which first made a name for itself by converting a Hummer H3 to a plug-in hybrid.

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A123 Systems to Supply Advanced Lithium Ion Battery Packs to VIA Motors for Extended-Range Electric Trucks

A123's Proprietary Nanophosphate(R) Technology Designed to Deliver High Power and Increased Usable Energy to Maximize Performance and Enable up to 40 miles of All-Electric Range for VIA's eREV Trucks

WALTHAM, Mass., Jan. 5, 2012 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A123 Systems (Nasdaq:AONE), a developer and manufacturer of advanced Nanophosphate®lithium ion batteries and systems, today announced that it will supply complete lithium ion battery packs to VIA Motors, an electric vehicle company building next-generation electrified trucks, vans and SUVs. To be integrated into VIA's Extended-Range Electric Vehicle (eREV) Powertrain, A123's 24kWh battery packs combine with a 300kW electric motor and an onboard generator to deliver an expected all-electric driving range of up to 40 miles.

"VIA plans to ramp up production significantly over the next three years to satisfy demand for clean, fuel-efficient full-size trucks and SUVs," said Kraig Higginson, CEO of VIA Motors. "We selected A123's Nanophosphate lithium ion battery systems because they are able to package higher power into a compact space in the vehicle."

VIA offers a full lineup of extended-range electric trucks, vans and SUVs called VTRUX, each equipped with the company's eREV Powertrain. In addition to supporting an expected all-electric range of about 40 miles, A123's lithium ion battery systems are also designed to provide exportable power capabilities that can be used externally. A123 has already begun producing the battery packs at its Livonia, Mich. facility as VIA has started delivering trucks to commercial fleet customers.

"We believe that the high power, greater usable energy and long life offered by our Nanophosphate lithium ion battery solutions will help VIA better position its eREV Powertrain platform as a cost-effective solution to maximize vehicle range and increase fuel economy," said Jason Forcier, vice president of A123's Automotive Solutions Group. "We think that commercial and government fleets represent a tremendous opportunity for vehicle electrification, and we look forward to working with VIA Motors to design eREV trucks, vans and SUVs that meet fleet customers' needs for efficient, environmentally friendly vehicles that also satisfy their performance, range and reliability requirements."

About A123 Systems

A123 Systems, Inc. (Nasdaq:AONE) is a leading developer and manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries and energy storage systems for transportation, electric grid and commercial applications. The company's proprietary Nanophosphate® technology is built on novel nanoscale materials initially developed at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and is designed to deliver high power and energy density, increased safety and extended life. A123 leverages breakthrough technology, high-quality manufacturing and expert systems integration capabilities to deliver innovative solutions that enable customers to bring next-generation products to market. For additional information please visit www.a123systems.com.