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Johnson Controls partnership wins new contract

Milwaukee, Wis. - A research consortia comprised of top domestic automakers is pushing development of lithium ion battery technology for hybrid-electric vehicles (HEVs) with a focus on improving battery power in low temperatures, and it is counting on a prominent Milwaukee company to provide the right chemistry.

The U.S. Advanced Battery Consortium, a developer of electrochemical energy storage technologies operating under the FreedomCAR and Fuel Partnership of the U.S. Council for Automotive Research, awarded a 24-month contract to a joint venture run by Johnson Controls and Saft.

The contract, the dollar value of which was undisclosed, represents the culmination of development work begun with twin 2004 USABC contracts to both companies. The Johnson Controls-Saft advanced power solutions venture, formed in January, combines development teams within existing locations to develop state-of-the-art manufacturing sites based on market demand.

Current generation HEVs rely on nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Within the next several years, industry leaders predict, lithium ion batteries are likely to become the preferred choice due to their advantages in size, weight, and power-storage capacity.

"The project reinforces our commitment to creating advanced-chemistry battery systems for tomorrow's HEVs, and delivering sustained market and technology leadership," said Alan Mumby, vice president and general manager of Johnson Controls' hybrid battery business and leader of the joint venture. "Our priorities are to work on cell performance, systems development, and cost reduction for lithium-ion technology."
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All batteries are designed to operate at ambient temperature, or the prevailing environmental conditions, and will lose power and capacity as temperature decreases, explained Karen Bauer, strategic planning director for Johnson Controls.

“Li-Ion batteries are not unique in this regard,” Bauer said.

To improve battery performance, JCS scientists will optimize cell chemistry to accommodate a two-pronged technical challenge: ensuring that power and capacity loss return to normal levels as temperatures increase and reducing the impact of cold temperature operation on battery life.

“To be clear, the challenge is really around extreme cold - something like -25 Celsius - not just Wisconsin winter cold,” Bauer added.

To achieve battery system cost reduction, JCS will focus on materials optimization, manufacturing efficiencies, and scale. The advanced battery hybrid systems team, located at Johnson Controls' headquarters in Milwaukee, will direct the technology development program. Cell development efforts will be supported by joint facilities in the United States and Europe.

USABC will reimburse JCS for 50 percent of all expenses incurred to execute the contract. While USABC is the contracting agency, the monies to pay USABC's cost share are provided by the U.S. Department of Energy.

Interconnected players

USCAR is an umbrella organization formed by DaimlerChrysler, Ford, and General Motors to strengthen the technology base of the domestic auto industry through cooperative research in partnership with government agencies such as the U.S. Department of Energy.

FreedomCAR is an industry-government research initiative focused on collaborative research in freeing the nation's personal transportation system from petroleum dependence.

Johnson Controls is a building efficiency and power solutions company with approximately 136,000 employees in more than 1,000 locations worldwide.

Saft is a high-tech battery manufacturer with approximately 3,800 employees and 18 manufacturing sites worldwide.

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