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A123 to supply battery packs to Tata for hybrid buses

Startup battery maker A123 Systems scored a potentially massive new contract Thursday, with a deal to supply lithium-ion battery packs to Tata Motors, India’s largest automaker, for hybrid commercial vehicles. A123’s lithium iron phosphate battery packs, featuring the company’s prismatic cell technology, are expected to be deployed on city buses during the second half of 2012.

Dr. Timothy Leverton of Tata said, “A123 Systems’ core lithium ion technology has a proven track record of success in the hybrid truck and bus segment, which we believe represents a very significant market opportunity. In addition, the modularity of A123’s pack design enables us to develop a uniform hybrid powertrain architecture that can be deployed across multiple vehicle platforms.”

A123 VP Jason Forcier said, “We believe that this announcement further validates the performance attributes of our Nanophosphate lithium iron phosphate technology and underscores our systems integration expertise. A123 understands the value proposition for commercial fleet hybridization, and we believe we can help Tata cost-effectively expand its portfolio of hybrid electric vehicle offerings to allow its customers to take advantage of the long-term benefits of fleet electrification.”

Charged readers have read plenty about Massachusetts-based A123 Systems [NASDAQ:AONE]. The company has some tough competitors, including larger firms such as Panasonic and LG, but it has an impressive list of contracts with automakers including BMW, Chevrolet (for the Spark EV), Daimler (hybrid buses) Smith Electric Vehicles (electric trucks) and Fisker. The latter is going through a rough patch at the moment, leading some analysts to wax pessimistic about the prospects for A123. The Tata deal, sparking dreams of the vast Indian market, should brighten the outlook.


Image: A123 Systems

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