Apple and the Verizon iPhone – 2011 Edition

So in the past week, the Apple rumorsphere has blown up again on more rumors about the CDMA iPhone. We’re all a bit tired of it and just want the phone to be out already.

The lead time on manufacturing chips is fairly large. It takes 12-16 weeks to fabricate a chip from silicon wafer to end product packaged and ready to be soldered onto a PCB. So 3-4 months. If you wanted them mid-December, you’d need to start production mid-September. If Apple wants a million chips, Qualcomm would need to get going now.

The biggest question now is not when is it released, but when is it announced. This is a calculated decision – more than even the decision to make a CDMA iPhone (which more or less falls into the DUH category given how Android is doing on Verizon and Apple doesn’t want to cede a perfectly viable piece of the market).

So how do they decide when to announce a Verizon iPhone?

1. Speculative Momentum. Every time a rumor comes out, it generates headlines. Announcing its going to be out for sure kills this cycle. You’ve only got so much to announce after you’ve made the initial announcement – things like the prices of data plans, any other terms and conditions, visual voicemail support, etc.

2. The Holiday Season. You probably want to announce it before December 1 for a corresponding January/February launch. People generally only get to update their phones every 2 years. If you announce 2-3 months prior to the release date, people will hold off long enough to get a suitable demand at launch. If you assume people get a new phone every 2 years, and Verizon has over 90M customers, that’s 3.75M customers every month that get a new phone. Let Christmas pass without an announcement, you’re likely to have some people frustrated that they just got a new phone and have to wait so long to get a Verizon iPhone. The counter-argument is that Apple is likely to be supply constrained for a while (first 3 months) and they’ll still sell every unit they make, so pumping up demand isn’t necessary.

3. FCC Certification. This used to be an issue, but isn’t as much anymore. Apple seems to have few problems these days with submitting devices to the FCC and requesting confidentiality. The only minor slip-up was the internals of the iPad ending up on a website the day before the launch in April, which isn’t that big of a deal since they would have been discovered the next day anyways. Assuming a device takes 2 months (maybe more around the holidays) then it would be submitted in late November for a late January launch.

4. An actual, factual deal – handshake and signatures. This is somewhat obvious, but they’ll need to actually come to terms and agree on things like phone price, feature set (from a phone/network perspective) and other things like what Verizon expects Apple to filter out of the App Store (network issues).

There is a lot of talk about unveiling it at CES since the CEO of Verizon has the keynote. I think that’s incredibly stupid speculation. It would be very un-Apple like for them to let a partner announce the phone. Even if Steve showed up, Apple would want to hold its own event. And January is probably too late – after the holidays and many purchasers are stuck for another year or two on other phones.

I’m inclined to pick a mid-November announcement. I think a September announcement with the refreshed iPods is possible, especially in light of Apple’s September 30th self-imposed deadline of figuring out what to do with the iPhone antenna issue. Apple could announce the iPhone 4-and-a-half in September for a January release with a physical fix, but who knows.

Bonus: If Verizon wanted to get a leg up on AT&T they’d do the WiFi hotspot thing.

iOS 4.0 Quick Review

Hey now, hey now, the bugs are back (#)

I’ve been using iOS 4,0 for two weeks now, and I realize I forgot how much I dislike iPhone OS iOS x.0 releases. I’m especially disappointed that a bug from the 2.0 version of the OS is back.

Issues with Mail Part I

First issue is that iOS (since 3.0) doesn’t play well with POP3 accounts. iOS does not close its POP3 connection to the server, leaving it open and letting the server timeout the connection after a minimum of 10 minutes (per the RFC that governs POP3 mail servers). How do I know this? I run my own mail server and look at the logs myself – iOS on the iPhone or iPad does not close its POP3 connection when you close the Mail app on the phone. It just leaves it open and lets it timeout. On the other device (or the desktop) the system will report an error about being unable to log into the POP3 account.

This is an issue when you have multiple devices checking a POP3 account every 15 minutes – an iPad, an iPhone, a desktop PC and a laptop – and half of them don’t play nice with each other. For the uninitiated, you can only have one client open a POP3 mailbox at once – so until that 10 minute timeout passes you cant log in with a different email client.

Issues with Mail Part II – Electric Boogaloo

The “I’m not checking mail automatically” bug from iOS 2.0 has returned with a vengeance. It only took about 12 hours after the initial install of iOS 4.0 before I noticed that my iPad was getting new emails but the iPhone wasn’t. I played around with the phone and realized, yup, the same problem that I had with iOS 2.0 has returned and there isn’t much I can do about it other that spend a weekend switching from POP3 to IMAP (not what I was looking forward to) and hope that it solves my issues (it should since IMAP allows multiple simultaneous connections).

For reference, if anyone at Apple ever reads this and cares enough to fix it – I have 4 POP3 accounts and an Exchange (Google) account on both an iPad an iPhone set to 15 minute intervals. Switching to IMAP fixed the POP3 issues.

Still no useful AVRCP support

AVRCP is a remote control protocol over Bluetooth. The iPhone supports a very limited set of commands – play/pause/stop. However other devices, specifically my Ford Sync system in my car, support more advanced AVRCP implementations that support next/previous, searching, etc.

Whats that noise in my pocket?

Twice in three days, when I’ve disconnected my iPhone from the USB port in my car (Ford Sync system), the iPhone continues to play music out of its speaker instead of stopping (which is what it used to do, and what it should do). If I don’t notice it immediately I’ll put the phone in my pocket and then hear this background noise…

Battery Life

When the iPhone was checking mail regularly, it ate through battery life quicker than with OS 3.0. Nothing streaming or going on in the background, just treating my phone like I did before. I turned on the battery percentage indicator to get a better feel for it, but around that same time the mail app stopped checking mail automatically.


Not much multitasking to speak of – the apps that support it haven’t been released to the App Store yet. There is a neat animation to illustrate when you’re switching between apps so you know the app is still running in the background.

Nissan announces $25,280 LEAF EV price after rebate. Wow…

Yeah, that “Wow!” probably isn’t very journalistic (but then again this is a blog). But the price is about $7,000 cheaper than the comparable price of the LEAF in Japan.

Nissan this week announced that their LEAF EV will be priced at $32,780 in the US before a $7,500 tax credit for electric vehicles. The 220V charging dock (required if you’re traveling more than ~50 miles per day due to recharge times from 110V/8A circuits) is an additional $2,200 (also eligible for a 50% tax credit). The total price (vehicle + 220V charger) after all tax credits is $26,380, and possibly as low as $21,380 is California, Georgia and Oregon due to $5,000 state income tax credits.

Nissan Japan has set a retail price of approximately $40,700 including VAT. After government incentives cost around $33,000.

The most interesting prospect is a $349/mo lease, plus $2,000 down. Further terms and conditions of the lease haven’t been specified (mileage, etc), but considering that electricity is pennies compared to gasoline, even for a 30MPG vehicle, people could get used to paying $30/mo more on their electric bill every month in exchange for no more gas stations. Though it makes me wonder what Nissan would do with all those lease turn-ins in 2014 with a comparatively out-of-date battery and larger EVs.

Mitsubishi responded by cutting the price of their iMiEV electric car by $7,000 in Japan in response to the lower price of the LEAF.

The low price will put pressure on other auto makers to push the price of their electric car downwards. Suddenly, an all electric sedan doesn’t look too appetizing if it is priced over $30,000 (after credit). Specifically, the price that GM will set for the Chevy Volt will likely be pushed down slightly from what they might have been expecting to sell it at. Even though the Volt is essentially an unlimited range electric vehicle due to the gas take and electric generator, GM’s difficulty will be conveying how the Volt works and explaining its benefits over EVs to the general public. An old political axiom applies – if you’re explaining, you’re losing.

It does look like a world of hurt for niche EV makers, Tesla might survive due to its luxury status, but more… exotic cars like the Aptera are likely to see harder times ahead due to price ceilings. The real question is battery supplies. How do the cost of batteries change when mass-manufacturing hits, and the demand for automotive batteries starts to greatly outstrip supply. Do we see prices go up, or can sufficient quantities be made with the existing supply chain?

The Nissan LEAF EV is expected to start selling in limited markets at the end of 2010, and nationwide sometime in 2011.

Automotive battery prices falling faster than expected

New reports (PDF) indicate (via GM-Volt) that the cost of lithium-ion batteries for automotive applications (like the Tesla Roadster, Chevy Volt and Nissan Leaf) are coming down faster than was previously expected. At a recent conference, A123 stated that they were negotiating contracts for automotive Li-Ion batteries for 2012 delivery at under $400/kWh, a reduction of almost 40% over 2009 prices ($650/kWh) in only 3 years. If the trend holds, a report published in-part by the National Academy of Sciences would be way off since it estimates the $400/kWh price point wont be hit until 2020, 8 years later.

Elon Musk (Tesla CEO) postulated a “weak Moore’s law” for Li-Ion batteries, that the price/performance ratio will increase by 8% per year, or 9 years to double. The price/performance ratio is the ratio between the price per kWh of the battery pack and the amount of energy the battery can store. If current batteries can store 140Wh/kg and cost $500/kWh, an 8% improvement means either the storage goes up to 150Wh/kg, the price goes down to $460/kWh, or somewhere in between (145Wh/kg and $480/kWh). A Tesla battery pack would go from $35,000 (53kWh at $650/kWh in 2009) to $24,000 ($400/kWh in 2014), a reduction of about 10% of the entire price of the car over approximately 5 years. Combined with other cost saving methods, the next stage of the Tesla evaluation – the Model S – starts to look feasible. Its still not going to be the most affordable car, however significant progress is being made.

The cost per battery pack can be broken into two parts – the batteries themselves and the pack. The pack costs can be trimmed considerably with mass-manufacturing. Instead of hand assembling each battery pack and set of battery modules (a series of cells), semi-automated assembly can increase the throughput of the teams assembling dramatically while keeping the same number of people around, reducing the amount of employee-hours spent per battery pack.

The cell costs don’t come down as easily. This is the decidedly slower part of the electrification of vehicles. Following the 8% rule, automotive battery packs due in 2009 cost approximately $650/kWh. In 2014 this cost is about $430, and by 2017, the cost is $330/kWh, and by 2020 $260/kWh. Following the more agressive price decreases noted above, prices in 2017 would be $235/kWh, and by 2020 $172/kWh.

So by 2020, a Volt-style battery would cost $4,200, or about the cost of a new engine (a rebuilt one can be had for less). This assumes that other battery performance parameters do not improve – rather the Volt still requires a 16kWh battery and only uses 8.8kWh of the battery pack. If the current estimates of what battery specifications will be by 2020 (2,500W/kg, 250Wh/kg, 2,000 cycles and 4,000 recharges at 70%DoD) the Volt would be able to have its pack size reduced to 12.5kWh (50kg, 110kW), thus reducing costs further to $3,250 for the battery pack, and the total price premium of the E-REV system would be approximately $5,500. Factoring that cost over 5 years is $1,100 per year in savings needed over gasoline, which is achievable when factoring in savings in electricity costs over gasoline (approximately 9c or 11c/mile savings depending on cost of electricity), reduced maintenance costs ($150/yr for oil changes, etc) and reduced variability of fuel costs – my electric company needs a regulatory body’s approval to change the price of energy, the local gas station chain can add 10 or 15c to the price of gas over a holiday weekend because they feel like sticking it to us.

By 2030, barring any new technology that would leapfrog Li-Ion on price and performance, battery prices would reach $110/kWh, and total costs would be equivalent to a Prius premium today.

Over the long term, E-REVs are workable from a consumer finance standpoint. Initially, subsidies, longer warranties and extended payback periods will be needed to entice the consumer to buy in to the electrification of vehicles. If we can manage to stick with it for the next 5-7 years, it will take off and the nation can start to wave good-bye to oil and petroleum for their in-city commutes, and we’ll all breathe easier with less smog.

TiVo Premiere (Series4) announced – good but not great

TiVo announced their new TiVo Premiere model today. The unit added a lot of what was needed to improve the TiVo experience and bring it into the 21st century, but not everything is in place. Is it enough to overcome being stymied by CableLabs and their slow progress?

The first thing to recognize is that TiVo fixed most of the major gripes with their existing units. Their biggest problem is the cable companies themselves vis-a-vis CableLabs, and while I’ll not address anything having to do with them for now (there is a long list of gripes), I had a long list of things TiVo needed to fix in a draft blog post ready to hit the “Publish” button had they messed up. Lucky for them I’m scrapping that post! (well, recycling it into this post, got to be green!)

Upgraded Hardware. While the device is still limited to two tuners (the Moxi supports three, new cable cards will support up to six), the upgraded Broadcom Chip on the inside is a dual core 400MHz MIPS processor and 512MB of RAM with clustered multi-threading (portions of the core like the execution unit are partitioned to support more than one thread per core). So once they manage to optimize their interface they should be able to take advantage of the hardware, even if the 400MHz speed look rather slow.

New HD Interface. The Series 3 TiVo uses the ancient SD interface, while the new Series 4 models use the new Adobe Flash-based UI. While the old interface is leaps and bounds above the standard cable set-top box (STB), other set top box makers (DirecTV, Dish, etc) are quickly catching up, and non-broadcast STBs like the Boxee Box already provide an experience that is better. TiVo should be the far and away leader given the head start they had, but they haven’t kept up. The new UI still needs some (a lot) of polish (“My Shows” should go back to “Now Playing” considering it can contain non-TV show content) but they seem to have got out of the rut they were in.

Better integration with internet content. Whether its the latest episode of The Big Bang Theory or a new Tekzilla I want them all in one list, organized by show name. I want one screen that shows me all the content I can watch now, whether its recorded TV shows, internet TV shows, plus TV shows, movies, pictures and music from my home network. Everything in one place. While I wont be able to get the stuff from my home network, I’m hoping the UI addresses the centralization issue.

Apps. The new TiVo is supposed to have an API available for developers. Combined with the Bluetooth Remote/Keyboard I can see cool Facebook or Twitter notifications. We’ll see if TiVo opens it up to all comers. If so, they are definitely going to need some sort of App Store. It would be really neat though, to replicate some of the iPhone App Store successes on the TiVo.

What did the get wrong?

No DLNA. I wont mince words, this is a huge mistake. TiVo’s proprietary protocols for sharing recorded content needed to be dropped a long time ago in place of the DLNA standard. Part of this might be restrictions imposed on them in terms of getting video out, but at the very least, I should be allowed to stream audio and video into the TiVo from my Windows Home Server easily, and it would be nice if they supported video formats like MKV (MP4+AC3 or DTS) since its really only a container around codecs supported by the Broadcom decoder chip.

No Built-in Bluetooth. While I can understand selling the awesome slider remote for $80, not including the $10 Bluetooth chip inside the unit seems incredibly weak. If I already have a BT keyboard I could do without one in my remote (especially for $80). Allowing BT keyboards in the first place was a great idea, but allow people who already have the hardware to use it! Also, BT would be useful for talking to a TiVo iPhone/Android application to use my phone as an advanced remote control, again, meaning that I don’t need the remote and BT dongle, rather just the BT capability.

While I still think TiVo needs to strengthen their engineering department to make their product better (DLNA, TTG Mac client, etc), the Series 4 is a step in the right direction. Hopefully they can manage to produce a new box more often than every 3 years to keep up with the rate of change in consumer electronics and can manage to squeeze more out of the Series 4 hardware they’re going to start shipping soon.

Finally, one parting thought on comparing a Tivo to an iPhone.

I think its odd that I have no problem dropping $300 every year on an new iPhone plus $30 a month for data and yet still complaining about AT&T’s poor service. But everyone is griping about the TiVo’s price ($300) and monthly costs ($13 or $400 lifetime) and yet they still love their TiVo. It is incredible to me actually. Why does everyone have such a hard time justifying to themselves a $300 TiVo once every three years and the $12.95/mo. I might get more out of an iPhone, but I would presume more people spend more time in front of the TV than a phone (except for teenagers perhaps). The only possible reason I can think of is because the only people I hate more than my cell phone provider is the cable company for its annual price increases. That and it would cost me an extra $10/mo just to them to add a Series 4 TiVo to my house – $2/mo cable card fee PLUS $8/mo for “additional digital service outlet” which is a, pardon my language, bullshit charge hoisted on us by the cable companies and the hardware vendors.

The 2010 Decade – Removing the PC from the Internet equation

By the end of the decade, connected devices will outnumber computers and smartphones on the internet. From monitoring devices like smart meters for the power grid, wireless picture frames, cars and their navigation systems, and even more things that haven’t been invented yet. We might laugh at the Tweeting Scale, but its these types of devices that will dominate our future.

Essentially, the internet goes from something you sit down at a computer to use to something that connects everything in our daily life together.

Brief Thoughts on Nissan Leaf EV

So Nissan announced their EV for commuters – the LEAF EV. 100 miles (spec.) on electricity. So what makes this stand out over all the other EVs being offered or promised?

First, the most interesting thing I saw was the 50kW DC charger. This is incredibly useful from a commuter standpoint – if you’re on your way home from work and need to run some errands, if you plug it in for 10 minutes you get an extra 30 miles, which will probably get you anywhere you need to go in your city.

Next is the that the electric motor is capable of 80kW (106hp). That is low compared to the Volt’s electric motor is 111kW/150HP, and the LEAF is estimated to weigh about the same (3,300-3,500lbs) as the Volt – as the extra 8kWh of batteries are about the same weight of the Volt generator. I’ll be interested to see acceleration and highway performance of the LEAF once they start to do road tests.

Overall, I don’t think they’ll hit their 100 mile range target, even the current Mini-E owners are saying that their real world mileage is about 70 miles per charge despite promises of 100 mile range. Not that 70 miles is bad, but there might be the occasional time where something happens and you end up exceeding 70 miles in a day. This is why its imperative that the same working group that did the SAE J1772 connector start work on a high capacity off-board DC charger. Up to 50kW is probably enough, assuming the 20-30 miles per 10 minutes figure holds up. Not all batteries will be able to handle that (E-REVs and plug-in hybrids wont be able to charge that quick) but if they could dial it down to what they could accept (15kW, 6kW, etc) it would allow more “charge point” and “service station” type places to recharge your electric car.

GM Promises Full 40 Mile Range at the End of 10 Years

In a recent online chat, when asked by a member of the public, GM stated that the Volt will have its full 40 mile range for the warranty period of the battery (10 yrs/150,000 miles). How will they manage that?

The Volt’s battery is 16kWh, with 50% of the capacity (8kWh) used to propel the Volt the first 40 miles. So how does GM guarantee that it’ll last that 40 miles for the full life of the vehicle? Well, as the total capacity decreases, the Volt can still pull 8kWh of energy from the battery. There are a few issues with this approach however.

First is that the maximum amount of power you can draw from a battery at any given moment depends on the state of charge (SoC) expressed as a percentage of total capacity. Generally speaking, you have a higher maximum power when the battery is fully charged and as the SoC decreases, the maximum power you can draw goes down as well.

This plays into how battery deterioration works over time. A battery’s total capacity will drop over time (both calendar time and cycle count), and that 8kWh needed to power the Volt for 40 miles will go up from 50% of the total capacity. As that percentage goes up, the Volt will need to expand its 50% depth of discharge to get 40 miles. Out of the factory, the battery will discharge between 85% and 35%. However if total battery capacity would degrade over 10 years from 16kWh to 13kWh (roughly 20%), then the depth of discharge would be 61% instead of 50%. We can assume the pack would go from 90% to 30% SoC, so as the battery charge state goes below 35% the pack will be able to produce less power. The issue is how much.

Could this mean that over time, battery only mode (aka Charge Depletion mode, or CD) will have decreased performance? Will 0-60 times, top speeds, etc remain constant over the life of the vehicle? GM would need to build these margins into the battery pack out of the factory, which is currently a large set of unknowns (though GM’s battery testing facility will certainly help answer these questions).

The other factor that plays into this is the cycle life. If the battery is limited to a 50% depth of discharge (DoD), the cycle life will improve dramatically over the 100% depth of discharge bench test. If a battery can go 750-1000 cycles at 100% DoD before losing 20% of the original capacity, the battery can likely take 3 times as many cycles at a 50% DoD (Motorola states that Li-Ion battery cycle counts increase exponentially as DoD decreases from 100%). GM will likely need a maximum of 3,750 cycles (40 miles each) to reach 150,000 miles, though its likely actual battery cycle counts will be closer to 3,000 in real world use. Anyone recharging the battery twice a day (recharging at work for another 40 mile drive home) will likely run up against those cycle counts much sooner.

As a risk to the program and to GM, I think the risk is fairly small. By the end of 2010, GM will have had its battery facility open for over a year. Their ability to test batteries in the worst of environments and to test cells, modules and packs and rack up the cycle counts quickly. Even if GM were forced to replace batteries after 7-8 years for those vehicles in the harshest climates (desert southwest, cold northern climates), the prices of batteries by the time 2018 or 2019 rolls around will be much cheaper (as much as 70% less than the 2010 price) and GM could even monetize the replacement if they offer a discounted upgrade battery (though I don’t know if that’s kosher/legal).

Lithium Carbonate Supplies Abound!

One of the worries I often hear about opposition to electric cars is that we’re trading one resource for another – oil for lithium. The list of countries with large lithium deposits aren’t overtly hostile to the US and its allies, however they are further left than we are (but who isn’t really?). Evo Morales of Bolivia has already stated he didn’t want outside companies to come in to Bolivia and take the lithium. But do we have enough from other sources to provide the number of lithium-ion batteries we’ll need to power the cars of the future?

An article at Seeking Alpha discusses a lithium conference held in Chile this year. At this conference, the future of lithium demands and reserves were discussed. The geologist who authored the article estimates that there are 30M tonnes of elemental lithium and 160M tonnes of carbonate (Li2CO3) – the actual material used in the production of lithium ion batteries.

Beyond that, there is a fairly high confidence of accuracy of these claims. Drilling performed in a mine along the Oregon/Nevada border indicated that an estimate from years ago was within 10% of a recent drilling. Western Lithium is focusing in on a single deposit of lithium of around 770,000 tonnes (1.5B lbs.) in Kings Valley, Nevada, with an estimated 11 million tonnes total (25B lbs.). With the recovery estimated at 85% for this area, that’s 9.35M tonnes of carbonate. They estimate producing 20,000 tonnes of LCE per year by 2013, and at a rate of 0.6kg/kWh of battery, it is enough for 3.3 million 10kWh battery packs per year. The most recent peak in the 1990s there were only 8.7M passenger cars sold (not including SUVs, trucks, etc), so a 10kWh battery coupled with sufficient technologies to allow 40 miles per charge (increased power/kg, depth of discharge) would allow 38% of cars manufactured to be PHEVs if the market and prices allowed, and this is just from one site located in northern Nevada, accessing only a fraction of what the site is expected to produce.

Down in southern Nevada near Tonapah, there is the only existing lithium brine recovery operation in the US in Clayton Valley, Nevada, where estimates range from 2 million to 20 million tonnes of LCE. One more valley over, there is the Fish Lake Valley, which has similar concentrations of lithium as Clayton Valley. The Clayton Valley site currently produces 5,700 tonnes annually, or enough for about 594,000 16kWh battery packs per year – the first three or four years of Volt production wont exceed 250,000 units. And I still haven’t left the great state of Nevada.

So what does 160M tonnes of lithium carbonate equivalent (LCE) equate to in batteries? With current production techniques, 0.6kg of lithium carbonate will be used per kWh of battery storage capability, and 1 kg of lithium carbonate is equivalent to 0.1875 kg elemental (pure) lithium. At 0.6kg LCE per kWh, recovering 50% of the estimated 160M tonnes of LCE would result in 13.3 Billion 10kWh batteries, or 3.8B 35kWh battery packs for battery electric vehicles. There are about 1B vehicles on the planet now, and factoring in growth to 2B by 2030, it would take about 60 years to go through that amount of lithium (assuming batteries last 10 years). When you combine this with lithium recycling, the supplies are enough to last us well until we find the lithium-ion replacement technology.

So what about recovery? Even by 2030 when plug-ins and pure electric cars are 90%+ of the sales (as estimates), that would mean an annual US vehicle production of 12 million vehicles per year would require almost 11M vehicle battery packs, at an average of 15kWh each, that’s 165 million kWh, or 99 million kg, or 99,000 tonnes just for the US. Worldwide, by 2020, its estimated that lithium-ion batteries for vehicles will require at most 70,000 tonnes per year, while various mining industry groups claim to be able to ramp to the high figures needed just themselves. This area appears to be well covered.

Finally is cost. Even at $250/kWh (the 2020 industry target price), lithium’s only about 2% of the battery price. The price for LCE is about $8/kg, or about $4.80/kWh, even doubling it doesn’t have a much of an effect on the price – from 2% to 4% of total cost in 2020.

We will still need to figure out what will come after lithium, though some companies are already laying the groundwork for the post-lithium era. But the doomsayers don’t have much of a leg to stand on, and we still haven’t got into harvesting lithium from seawater (at a first-generation technology price of $22-32/kg, with enough lithium for 18 trillion Tesla Roaster battery packs).

A123 Battery Technology – LiFePO4

A123 systems has been a big name in batteries since the plug-in revival started again two years ago. One unique property of the A123 batteries is that instead of prismatic cells (that is, rectangular prism), they’re cylindrical, like the AA batteries that go in your digital camera.

Their chemistry of choice is lithium iron phosphate, or LiFePo4. Their current premier cell that they have specifications available for is the ANR26650M1A, or just M1 cell. This cell packs about 7.6Wh in one cylinder about 6.5cm tall (2.55 inches) and 1.5cm in diameter. That means you’d need 2,100 cells to make a 16kWh battery, and that many cells would provide more than necessary power to supply the electric motor.

One of the rumored reasons why GM chose LG Energy over A123 is that because A123 was unable to produce prismatic cells, and GM needed prismatic cells to fit the necessary 16kWh in the Volt without taking up any more room than they already are. However, this is in direct conflict with Chrysler’s assertion that they are working with A123 on a prismatic cell. The M1 is also the cell that the could be in the Raser Electric Hummer H3, based on a reference to the cell in the H3 promotional video.

A123 is happy to tout their cycle life – their specification sheet has a graph showing that at 45°C (113F, not an unreasonable temperature to keep batteries at during usage) the cycle life exceeds 1000 cycles and maintained just under 90% of its original capacity. At the steady rate of decline showed on the graph, it appears the battery could get up to 1,750 cycles until capacity was 80% of original capacity at 1C charge and 2C discharge.

We’ll see if Chrysler can make it out of Ch 11 and the merger with Fiat to create these electric cars they’ve planed on making, or if A123 gets a better dance partner (Ford?) before the prom is over.