Battery start-up speeds toward trucks, data centers

A123Systems says its improved lithium-ion batteries can be used for hybrid trucks and buses, including plug-ins.Photos: A123Systems shows off lithium-ion batteries
Written by Martin LaMonica, Contributor
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CAMBRIDGE, Mass.--A123Systems, one of many start-ups looking to improve energy storage, wants to find a home for its batteries in corporate data centers and in hybrid trucks and buses.

The company, spun off from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 2001, has developed nanoscale materials to improve lithium-ion batteries. Its technology results in safe and more powerful batteries that can charge faster than traditional batteries, according to the company.

Industrial tools manufacturer DeWalt has incorporated cylinder-shaped batteries into its professional power tools. General Motors earlier this year said it will evaluate A123Systems' batteries for a planned hybrid plug-in SUV, the Saturn Vue.


A123Systems founder and MIT professor Yet-Ming Chiang, speaking at the MIT Energy 2.0 Conference here Saturday, said the company intends to expand its use of the technology in transportation and other industries.

It is creating a battery for lightweight jets that save half the weight compared with existing products. A123Systems also plans to create uninterrupted power supplies for servers.

In the transportation industry, the company is developing batteries for hybrid trucks and buses, including plug-in hybrids, Chiang said.

At the conference, the company showed off a plug-in Toyota Prius that can go 30 miles to 35 miles before recharging. The company's batteries, which are about 33 inches wide, are stored under the hatchback trunk.

Although more development is needed, Chiang said, A123Systems' batteries can make a mark in plug-in hybrids, much the way they have in the power tools industry.

"This really is new battery technology," he said. "We have capabilities that five years ago power tool people didn't believe was possible."


Correction: This story misstated the size of A123Systems' batteries for a plug-in Toyota Prius. They are about 33 inches wide.

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