GM, perhaps the domestic automaker with the most riding on the electric vehicle movement, picked LG Chem to produce the batteries for its upcoming electric vehicle, the Chevy Volt. Battery supplier A123 also pursued the contract, but was ultimately overlooked as GM ruled it was too far from producing batteries in sufficient volume compared to LG Chem.
Now A123 has been picked up by GM's competitor Chrysler, creating an interesting triangle in the domestic electric vehicle industry. As with GM, Chrysler's electric vehicle deployment, set for next year, is contingent on it avoiding bankruptcy and liquidation. Assuming it can, it will release the electric-drive Dodge Circuit, a new sports car, next year. The roadster will be powered by A123 battery packs, with a promised range of over 150 miles on a charge.
Soon to follow are EV-retrofitted Jeep Patriot and Wrangler Unlimited SUVs, Chrysler Town & Country minivans, and 200C midsize sedans. For the 200C, Chrysler has a similar scheme to the Volt -- a 40 mile gas-free range and a gas-engine to recharge the batteries, providing an additional 400 miles on a full tank.
By 2013 Chrysler plans for all three of its major brands to have electric vehicle offerings. Key to that plan will be a steady supply of batteries from A123.
Massachusetts-based A123 plans to use money from the Michigan battery stimulus package to finance a Michigan-based plant to produce battery packs. Cells will likely continue to come from Asia and shipped to the plant where they're assembled into the finished product. Besides Chrysler, A123 is hoping to use the plant to supply batteries to the Think brand of tiny Swedish electric cars and make a second effort at winning a serious GM supply contract.
Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm praised A123's decision to invest in downtrodden Michigan. She says the investment comes "at a critical time in the automotive industry and in the state of Michigan" She says she looks forward to the companies working together "to develop and produce advanced technology in Michigan (to create) new jobs in the state, deliver benefits to consumers and contribute significantly to bringing more environmentally friendly vehicles to market."
Frank Klegon, Chrysler executive vice president in charge of product development praised the new partnership stating, "This is a great example of two American companies working together to put cutting-edge technology on the road."