A123 Charges Up Smith Electric Commercial Vehicles

A123 Systems announced it will supply batteries for Smith Electric Vehicles' zero-emission, all-electric commercial vehicles. The deal shows the potential for more EV applications for freight haulers, not just small econo-cars.
A123's advanced Nanophosphote Lithium Ion Battery Systems, which has a 5kWh capacity, will outfit the Smith electric vehicles. The prismatic modules are scheduled to be integrated into battery packs come the second half of 2011. The Smith Newton truck, the first recipient of the A123 battery technology and a 7.5-ton powerhouse, does freight transport for Coca-Cola, Staples, and the U.S. Marine Corps.

Though at first blush these high energy-density lithium ion batteries are thought of as powering smaller electric like the Tesla Roadster or the Nissan Leaf, the use in heavy-duty trucks makes a lot of sense because those vehicles don't have as many packaging restrictions as passenger cars. In other words, there are many more ways to stow the batteries in a big-box truck than a car that is must adhere to some real design standards.

And though the more and larger the lithium-ion batteries need to be to push a load of Coca-Cola down the street, the higher the cost will be, there is profit seen long-term in converting to EVs in this truck class, especially when government tax credits are factored in.

Robert Brown of research firm Craig Hallum notes that adoption of EV powertrains in commercial is a potential windfall for A123, because such vehicles require more power and thus more batteries. A typical car hybrid like a Prius has a 1.5 kWh capacity, and even a plug-in hybrid or a pure EV car will have 15 or 25 kWh capacities, respectively. By contrast, your typical heavy duty diesel hybrid vehicle or pure electric will have a capacity upwards of 45kWh--meaning more 5kWh packs are necessary.
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WALTHAM, Mass., May 9, 2011 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- A123 Systems (Nasdaq:AONE), a developer and manufacturer of advanced Nanophosphate® lithium ion batteries and systems, today announced a production agreement with Smith Electric Vehicles to supply battery modules for Smith's portfolio of zero-emission all-electric commercial vehicles. A123 expects to begin shipping its 5kWh automotive-class prismatic modules to Smith for integration into battery packs in the second half of 2011.

"We selected A123 Systems as a strategic supplier of lithium ion battery technology because it offers cost-competitive, high-quality solutions that meet the performance, safety and life requirements for our electric vehicles," said Bryan Hansel, president and CEO of Smith Electric Vehicles. "The highly scalable, building-block design of A123's modules also enables us to build customized battery packs to meet individual customers' range specifications. This allows our customers to maximize the performance of their electric vehicles while realizing a faster return on investment."

According to Smith Electric Vehicles, A123's battery technology will be first implemented in the Smith NewtonTM truck, an all-electric, 7.5 ton (16,535 GVWR)-15 ton (33,000 GVWR) vehicle that has been commercialized globally. Smith's customers include Frito-Lay (a division of PepsiCo), Staples, Coca-Cola, Sainsbury's and Dairy Crest, as well as the U.S. Marine Corps.

"The addition of Smith Electric Vehicles to our growing portfolio of blue-chip customers reinforces our position as a leading provider of lithium ion battery technology for heavy-duty and commercial transportation applications," said Jason Forcier, vice president of the Automotive Solutions Group at A123. "The long-term economic, environmental and operational benefits of fleet electrification can only be fully achieved with the right battery technology, and we believe that the performance capabilities and modular design of our systems make A123's solutions optimal for commercial transportation applications. We expect that our systems will enable Smith to deliver vehicles that offer significant fuel economy improvements and total cost of ownership advantages over trucks with conventional powertrains."

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