A123Systems Will Supply Batteries for Chrysler’s Electric Vehicles

If struggling automaker Chrysler survives its current financial crisis, it will likely come out the other end with a different owner (the Obama Administration wants it to link up with Italy’s Fiat) and a different lineup of vehicles. In fact, it’s already working on a line of electric-only automobiles, including five Dodge, Jeep, and Chrysler models displayed at the 2009 North American International Auto Show in Detroit in January. And today the Auburn Hills, MI-based carmaker announced that A123Systems of Watertown, MA, will supply advanced lithium ion batteries for the vehicles, the first of which is expected to hit the market next year.

Under the agreement announced today, A123 will build a plant in Michigan to manufacture its nanophosphate lithium ion battery cells, which can be combined into battery packs large or small enough to suit the size of each vehicle. Using the same battery cells in all of its upcoming electric-drive vehicles, Chrysler says, will reduce development time and system costs and help increase production volumes. The cells will end up inside the company’s so-called “ENVI” line, which includes the Dodge Circuit EV, the Jeep Wrangler EV, the Jeep Patriot EV, the Chrysler Town & Country EV, and the Chrysler 200C EV concept car (see photo; click for a larger version).

Chrysler LLC Electric Vehicles“We’re very proud to have been selected to supply advanced battery systems for Chrysler’s family of ENVI electric-drive vehicles,” David Vieau, A123’s president and CEO, said in a statement issued by Chrysler. “This bold move by Chrysler changes the game and greatly improves our country’s ability to modernize our transportation fleet. We’re confident that our collaboration with Chrysler will serve as proof that American innovation is alive and well and ready to lead the new global market for fuel-efficient electric vehicles.”

Chrysler says the deal with A123 will help it respond to calls from government and the public for a new generation of cars that create fewer greenhouse gas emissions and that reduce the nation’s dependence on petroleum. Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm welcomed the news, saying the Chrysler-A123 alliance “will create new jobs in the state, deliver benefits to consumers and contribute significantly to bringing more environmentally friendly vehicles to market.”

Wade Roush is a freelance science and technology journalist and the producer and host of the podcast Soonish. Follow @soonishpodcast

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