Massachusetts Battery Firms A123Systems and Boston-Power Taking Different Roads to Auto Market

8/25/09

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$3.1 billion in 2013.

Grose said that one of his concerns about Boston-Power’s prospects in the auto sector is that few automakers are looking for lithium battery suppliers right now, having already struck agreements to get such batteries from firms such as A123, LG Chem, and Johnson Controls. Johnson says it’s providing lithium cells for Ford’s planned plug-in hybrids.

However, Boston-Power’s Lampe-Onnerud countered that sentiment, noting that while major U.S. and Japanese automakers already have lithium battery suppliers, there are still companies in other parts of Asia and in Europe that haven’t. As Bob reported earlier this month, Boston-Power already has manufacturing operations in Taiwan and is building a larger production facility in China. The future of the company’s U.S. auto battery manufacturing plans may hinge on the DOD grant; Lampe-Onnerud said her firm is unlikely to move forward with the manufacturing project in Massachusetts without grant support. For now, the company, founded in 2005, is seeing revenue growth from sales of its Sonata batteries in the portable electronics market, Lampe-Onnerud says, noting that the firm has an ongoing supply agreement with Hewlett-Packard to provide HP with eco-friendly laptop replacement batteries.

Boston-Power hasn’t applied for further grant support from the DOE, which received about $2 billion in stimulus funds this year to invest in next-generation batteries for automobiles. A123 revealed earlier this month that the firm is seeking an unspecified amount of additional grant money from the energy department’s advanced technology vehicles manufacturing program.

Despite her firm’s current position in the vehicle market, Lampe-Onnerud says she doesn’t think her company is out of the race. “This opportunity is so large that I think we would be foolish to think that it has formed already,” she said. “It’s in formation and it’s very early-stage.”

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