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New Type of Battery Offers Voltage Aplenty

A123 battery systems

A new generation of rechargeable batteries -- delivering far more power than their predecessors -- is energizing the power-tool industry and generating widespread interest in applications in everything from vacuum cleaners to ride-on lawn mowers to hybrid cars.

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The new lithium-ion batteries -- powering a host of products already on the market and envisioned for others on the drawing board -- are made possible by technical breakthroughs in lightweight lithium-ion cells, introduced in rechargeables in the 1990s but until recently deemed too volatile for safe high-power use.

Black & Decker Corp. says that early next year it plans to introduce a family of 36-volt power tools in its professional DeWalt line, including circular saws, reciprocating saws, a rotary hammer for drilling into concrete and an impact wrench powerful enough to unscrew lug nuts on truck tires. They will have double the power of 18-volt tools, now the most common cordless devices carried by carpenters and contractors.

DeWalt's lithium-ion batteries come from A123 Systems Inc., a Watertown, Mass., start-up that has licensed patents from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Germany's Robert Bosch GmbH also plans new high-powered cordless tools next year, and says it is working with two lithium-ion battery suppliers. Earlier this year, Milwaukee Electric Tool Corp., a unit of Hong Kong's TechTronics Ltd., introduced slightly less powerful 28-volt cordless tools powered by lithium-ion batteries made by a Canadian unit of Taiwan's E-One Moli Energy Corp.

From Wikipedia

In December 2006, A123Systems was awarded a $15 million development contract by the United States Advanced Battery Consortium (USABC), an organization composed of DaimlerChrysler Corporation, Ford Motor Company and General Motors Corporation. USABC awarded the contract in collaboration with the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to optimize the A123Systems proprietary doped Nanophosphate battery technology for hybrid electric vehicle applications with a focus on systems that are high-power, abuse-tolerant, long lasting and cost effective.

On February 26 2007, President of A123Systems David Vieau met with President George W. Bush and Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman at the White House to inspect a Battery Range Extender Module that can be easily installed in the spare tire well of most hybrid vehicles. This would enable current production models to become plug-in hybrids capable of achieving 150 or more miles per gallon and optionally replace the discharged battery in the module, instead of recharging it, to extend the range.

On May 2007, BAE Systems announced that, starting in 2008, it will offer A123Systems' lithium ion battery technology as part of its HybriDrive Propulsion System used in the 2008 version of the Daimler Orion VII hybrid buses.

On August 2007, General Motors announced plans to co-develop lithium-ion battery cells for the Chevrolet Volt with A123Systems.

On August 2008, the Company filed a registration statement for a proposed initial public offering with the Securities and Exchange Commission