A123 makes a pretty good lithium battery that has a high-cycle life and can put out loads of power. What it's not so good at, however, is holding a lot of energy. At least, not when compared to the Panasonic cells that Tesla Motors uses in the Model S. Sure, it's great for hybrids and city-car applications like the Chevy Spark EV, but if it's going to find a place in the longer-range EVs of the future, it will need to up its game. It looks like that could happen.

A123 Venture Technologies, a division of the now Wanxiang-owned company, has taken MIT startup SolidEnergy under its wing in a collaborative partnership to produce a battery has holds four times the energy of today's cells. Instead of an energy density of, say, 200 watt-hours per kilogram, this new chemistry may be able to hold up to 800 Wh/kg. Imagine a future Spark EV going 328 miles on a charge instead of its current 82-mile range. Kind of exciting, isn't it?

As its name suggests, SolidEnergy uses a (cleverly-acronymized) solid electrolyte called solid polymer ionic liquid (SPIL) within it cells, whereas most manufacturers employ nonaqueous organic solvents, such as eye of newt. This allows for a cell that is not only energy dense, but can operate safely within a temperature range of -40C to 482F without cooling or heating.

The arrangement will see the new startup's crew move into A123's Waltham, MA development facility where they hope to produce prototypes of consumer electronics batteries by next year, before moving on to EV-specific cells. Scroll down to read the official press release along with a video presentation from last year on the technology – listen until the end to catch the ironic statement about inheriting assets from failed battery companies.


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A123 Venture Technologies Agrees to Collaboration with MIT Start-up SolidEnergy

Agreement is First Example of A123's Collaborative Development Approach
October 21, 2013 12:30 PM Eastern Daylight Time

WALTHAM, Mass.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--A123 Venture Technologies, a Massachusetts technology incubator, announced today its collaboration with MIT startup SolidEnergy. This strategic partnership leverages SolidEnergy's transformative solid electrolyte technology enabling the safe and practical use of lithium metal anodes for high energy density batteries in a wide range of applications. It is also the first publicly announced agreement under A123's expanded R&D model introduced earlier this year.

"A123 is delighted that SolidEnergy selected us as a development partner and we look forward to providing them with the ecosystem needed to bring this important technology to market in leading edge products."

Together the companies will gain competitive advantage by accelerating a safer high energy battery chemistry with the potential of four times the energy density compared to conventional lithium ion batteries. SolidEnergy decided to partner with A123 Venture Technologies for its world-class labs, innovation and rapid scale-up experience, and battery design expertise. A123 Venture Technologies' incubator business model was launched last spring at MIT's Knowledge Foundation conference as a way to provide start-ups with access to its development facilities, battery know-how, and market access in exchange for services revenue, equity and cooperation on commercialization. A123 and SolidEnergy both began with MIT research making this partnership a natural fit.

This partnership combines SolidEnergy's novel battery technology called Solid Polymer Ionic Liquid (SPIL) electrolyte originally developed at MIT with the mature cell design and prototyping capabilities of A123. "We are excited to embark on our respective new journeys and to commercialize this technology in the fastest and most efficient way," said Qichao Hu, President and Chief Technology Officer of SolidEnergy.

The companies plan to jointly produce consumer electronics battery prototypes within the next year, followed by electric vehicle battery prototypes, and SolidEnergy staff will also be hosted in A123's Waltham, Massachusetts development facility. Test results are expected to be ready for discussion with target customers in the latter part of 2014. Mujeeb Ijaz, President of A123 Venture Technologies, said, "A123 is delighted that SolidEnergy selected us as a development partner and we look forward to providing them with the ecosystem needed to bring this important technology to market in leading edge products."

About A123 Systems

A123 Systems LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Wanxiang Group, is a leading developer and manufacturer of advanced lithium-ion batteries and energy storage systems for transportation, electric grid and lead-acid replacement applications. The company's proprietary Nanophosphate® lithium iron phosphate 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 and expert system integration capabilities to enable next-generation products for its customers globally. For more information, please visit www.a123systems.com.