A123 Systems will work with Argonne National Laboratory on a cathode development program for making safe lithium-ion batteries with high energy densities and long lifetimes.

Lithium-ion battery maker A123 Systems forged an agreement with the research lab operated by the University of Chicago for the U.S. Department of Energy. The cathode development project will be ideal for bringing substantial improvements to plug-in electrified vehicles, including extending range in electric cars, according to an A123 Systems press release.

The three-year, multi-million dollar joint project will focus on improving the cathode safety without compromising cell energy density or battery life. A123 will take its experience and scientific talent to commercialize advances in nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC) technology originally developed by Argonne, the company said.

A123 predicts the joint project will more than a 60% increase in energy density over its current products, with a corresponding increase in electric range for the vehicles it supplies.

Since being acquired by Wanxiang Group, the company moved away from lithium batteries for PEVs like the Fisker Karma toward becoming a leader in providing high-power batteries for low-voltage hybrids. The battery maker now has an opportunity to supply more PEVs with battery packs.

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Through its Chinese corporate backer, A123 System’s business has grown in China. Six vehicle models use A123’s NMC technology in plug-in applications, and the battery maker has been awarded more than 10 additional programs for future market introductions, the company said. Those applications have been sold mainly in China, but A123 Systems expects a more global customer base in the next few years.

One of those customers is Karma Automotive, which is using the A123 Systems lithium battery pack in its newly-launched Revero plug-in hybrid sports car. Karma is also owned by Wanxiang Group.

“Working with Argonne will further advance our already strong presence in plug-in vehicles and support the increasing market demand globally,” said Jason Forcier, A123 Systems CEO, in the press release.

A123 Systems