A week after Mercedes-Benz announced details of its first hybrid, battery supplier Continental Automotive has launched production of the battery packs. Mercedes will be the first manufacturer to mass produce a hybrid vehicles with lithium ion batteries. Continental spent €3 million to build the battery manufacturing facility in Nuremberg. The first batteries that being produced weigh 55 lbs and have a volume of just under 0.5 cu. ft. When the Mercedes S400 BlueHybrid launches in mid-2009 with this 120V battery pack it will be installed in the engine compartment in place of the standard 12V lead acid battery.

Since this is the first mass market automotive application of a lithium battery, Mercedes and Continental are being extra careful. The battery is designed to last a minimum of 10 years and 100,000-150,000 miles so Continental has developed a sophisticated monitoring system to make sure that it operates within normal operating parameters. Each individual cell is monitored to keeps loads balanced and ensure even charging and discharging. Continental had to develop special processes to weld the copper bus bars that act as cell interconnects. The whole battery is enclosed inside of a laser-welded stainless steel case. The initial production capacity of the factory is 15,000 units a year and that can easily be doubled.

[Source: Continental]

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