GM Re-Confirms Relationship With A123 On Spark EV, As Well As Production

5 years ago by Jay Cole 9

Cutaway Of A 2014 Spark EV

A123 has had its share of ups and downs of late. 

Earlier in the year, a flaw in their batteries showed up during a Consumers Report test drive of the Fisker Karma.  By the time all the dust had settled from replacing packs and replenishing their inventory, A123 had lost 67 million dollars, causing concern about the viability of the company.  Shares plummeted as low as 82 cents at one point, off from a high of about $6.

Then, last week A123 announced they had perfected a potentially disruptive technology to the lithium battery industry.  Namely, a pack that could output 20-30% more power, and yet still retain 90% of its initial capacity after 2,000 cycles, which is much higher than current industry standards.  Shares then rallied as high as $1.58.

Spark EV Electric Motors Goes Into Production in Late 2012

Still, A123’s financial worries will not be solved by a technology that is likely years away from profitability, and there was some concern that A123, given their recent glitches and financial worries may lose their current relationships with the likes of General Motors, BMW and Fisker.

With Fisker orders of late waivering, A123’s contract with GM with the Spark EV is thought to dwarf any other orders on their books for 2013, and if the car finds success in the marketplace, that could be the light at the end of the tunnel for company headquartered out of Waltham (MA), and production facilities in Michigan.  Conversely, a souring of the two companies relationship may be the last straw on A123’s back.

Inside EVs reached out to GM to ask about the status of their relationship with the battery startup, to find out if A123 is still indeed the battery and systems supplier for the Spark EV, and if the Fisker and recent financial issues at the company had perhaps caused GM to rethink their decision.

Randy Fox, who looks after the corporate communication for GM as it pertains to advanced electric vehicle technology stated to us that:

 “…we (GM) continue  to work closely with A123 and our plans for the Chevrolet Spark EV remain unchanged.”

Good news for A123.  As for what exactly those plans are, Annalisa Bluhm, who works for Chevrolet Communications told us that the Spark EV will indeed be built in 2013 on schedule, but that it will be sold as a 2014 model.

Below:  Video of a “65% calibrated Chevrolet Spark EV before heading out on a road test in Torrance, California” – GM Media

Disclosure: The InsideEV’s author of this piece has a long position in A123.

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9 responses to "GM Re-Confirms Relationship With A123 On Spark EV, As Well As Production"

  1. backstroke says:

    So, no confirmation on size of the battery, or whether Spark will be using A123s next gen Nano EXT, and hence no thermal management system? C’mon Jay don’t hold out on us! 😛

    1. Jay Cole says:

      I did ask Randy at GM about the EXT technology and he really didn’t want to comment on it. But for sure it will not be appearing in the Spark EV, at least not this first generation.

      As for the size of the battery, last I heard (but NOT confirmed in any official way) through the grapevine, was that they are using a version of A123’s core pack…not at 23 kWh, but 20 kWh…of which a BMS system comes with.

      This unit would be made up of A123’s AMP20 modules, which house AMP20M1HD-A prismatic cells. Link to cells: http://www.a123systems.com/prismatic-cell-amp20.htm

      1. backstroke says:

        Yep same AMP20 cells will be first to get EXT in 1H 2013. Outside chance I thought, but like you say too early. Spark development is long complete if they are starting up manufacutring early next year.

        Do hope A123 have finally beefed up their QMS and won’t have any issues. Any idea if A123 now identify and manage which cells are manufactured on which lines, and inturn which cells are in which modules/battery, so if they ever get a problem they can limit the hit to identifiable batteries?

        1. Jay Cole says:

          Wouldn’t that have been nice if batteries from each of the four welders could have been identified?

          I know they said something about new controls and systems in place, and everything was going to be fine, but I have never heard any specifics. Seems like A123 got real quiet and controlled with statements after the incident.

          1. backstroke says:

            Yep sure would have saved a lot of grief. Amazed me at the time that no one on a regular basis was checking the whole line and recalibrating if necessary. Seems damn sloppy way to carry on.

            Take it GM have insisted on regular checks and proof that every step is managed going forward.

  2. jonwa says:

    Just to clarify…
    “.82 cents” as in less than one penny?
    Or did you mean “82 cents” as in less than a dollar?

    1. staff says:

      Yes, there is an extra period in there, 82 cents is the low. Fixed. Thanks for pointing that out Jonwa

  3. Spec says:

    “if the car finds success in the marketplace”

    That probably is not possible since it appears that the Spark EV is just a compliance car being built in limited numbers. At least initially. 🙁

    1. Brian says:

      What’s worse, A123 going under could simply add to GM’s story that EVs are not ready for prime time.