While investigations are currently on-going regarding the safety of the Chevrolet Volt’s battery pack, Automotive News is reporting that General Motors is going to use a completely different battery technology in the 2013 Chevy Spark Electric that’s more stable, safer, and has a longer lifetime than the Volt’s current lithium-ion battery pack.
Currently, most electric cars and hybrids, including GM's Chevy Volt and Buick LaCrosse E-Assist, use lithium metal oxide chemistry in their lithium-ion battery packs, sourced from LG Chem in South Korea. According to AN, GM’s planning on using phosphate-based lithium-ion batteries on its Chevy Spark Electric, sourced from Massachusetts-based A123 Systems.
Lithium phosphate chemistry is being touted as the next big thing when it comes to battery technology. It has the advantage of having better heat management, longer battery life, and being safer than current lithium metal oxide chemistry. GM announced its deal with A123 Systems back in October, months after the May Volt fire at the NHSTA’s testing facility.
When GM was engineering the Volt, it accepted bids from multiple manufacturers to produce the Volt’s battery pack. Two of those manufacturers were LG Chem and A123 Systems. GM chose to go with LG Chem’s lithium metal oxide chemistry batteries because the technology was more proven at the time.
When GM was soliciting bids for batteries, A123 Systems couldn’t prove that they could manufacture its lithium phosphate chemistry batteries at the volume GM required for the Volt. At the same time, lithium phosphate technology was in its infancy and wasn’t yet proven. According to Automotive News, it is now.
With lithium phosphate chemistry ready for prime time and slated to be implemented in the Chevy Spark, the report says that other automakers are starting to use the new technology as well. Fisker is planning on using lithium phosphate batteries for the Karma, and BMW is using them for the ActiveHybrid 5 and ActiveHybrid 3.
With lithium phosphate making its way into the Spark, we see no reason why the new tech won’t find its way into the Chevy Volt in the near future.
Source: Automotive News (Subscription required)