A123 removed cobalt price swings from EV batteries
Fluctuations in the price of rare-earth metals such as palladium, used in catalytic converters, have plagued automakers for decades. Cobalt has been a vexing ingredient for electric vehicle batteries. Cathodes can be more than 60 percent cobalt by weight. As speculators have anticipated rising demand for the metal, its price has spiked — a purchasing manager's nightmare. Over the past 15 years, cobalt generally has cost $10 to $15 a pound, but occasionally has surged to more than $50 a pound.
A123 Systems eliminated that problem by developing a cobalt-free, 48-volt lithium ion battery pack suitable for mild hybrid vehicles. Through innovations in battery material morphology, chemical content, manufacturing and packaging, A123 developed a superior lithium ion phosphate chemistry, branded UltraPhosphate.
In addition, the battery packed more power in a smaller package, with 20 to 30 percent more energy density over other lithium ion chemistries, even in colder temperatures. It also required no active battery cooling, resulting in weight and space savings. A123 Systems won a PACE Award in 2018 for its breakthrough.
A123's parent company, China's Wanxiang Group, estimates it will deliver 500,000 UltraPhosphate battery packs a year by 2020. Changan Automobile Co., which makes EVs and plug-in hybrids such as the Eado and Benni, was A123's first customer.
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