Johnson controls-saft develops li-ion batteries for plug-in hybrids

The united states advanced battery consortium (usabc), has awarded a contract to johnson controls-saft, a joint venture, to develop lithium-ion (li-ion) power storage systems specifically for plug-in hybrid vehicles over the next several years and to evaluate the commercial viability of li-ion technology for this application.

According to the company, the contract is worth us$8.2 million (€5.5 million). Usabc members include u.S. Auto companies chrysler, ford and general motors (gm). The umbrella organization is funded with government money by the u. S. Department of energy. Johnson controls-saft is a joint venture between u.S. Auto supplier johnson controls and french battery maker saft. The joint venture has already opened a plant for li-ion car batteries in france earlier this year.

The goal of the development contract is a complete li-ion battery system designed specifically for vehicles that will be able to travel distances of up to 10 miles (17 km) or 40 miles (65 km) in pure electric mode: this will pay for li-ion cells with high energy density, control electronics and software for the battery pack’s control unit, and efficient cooling systems for the energy storage system.

To produce a plug-in hybrid vehicle with sufficient range at an affordable price, developers have to reconcile partly conflicting objectives: on the one hand, compact batteries with a particularly high energy density are very expensive; on the other hand, coarse battery units make the vehicle heavier and are difficult to integrate into the vehicle in a crash-safe manner. In the case of the plug-in hybrid tesla roaster, which has already been built in small numbers, the battery unit alone costs 13.300 euros. In contrast, projects such as mitsubishi’s i-miev – an electric car with li-ion batteries based on an already available miniature car with an internal combustion engine – which is due to be launched in 2009, offer hope of affordable mobility.

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