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Manufacturing Woes Haunt High-Tech Battery Maker

from Nature News

A leading manufacturer of high-performance lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles is struggling to make ends meet. Last week, A123 Systems of Waltham, Massachusetts, announced net losses of US$125 million in the first quarter of the year. Its woes are symptomatic of larger problems facing the battery industry.

"The market for electric vehicles hasn't ramped up as quickly as projected," says Yet-Ming Chiang, a materials scientist at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, who co-founded the company in 2001.

The market's sluggishness is in large part because the batteries are still very expensive. Chiang would not disclose the price of A123's batteries, but he says that the industry average is US$500-650 per kilowatt-hour of energy stored. The Nissan LEAF electric car uses a 24-kilowatt-hour battery pack, which would cost $12,000 on the low end--about one-third of the car's selling price, and a lot for consumers to swallow.

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