GE invests in US battery maker A123Systems

Dr. Yet Ming Chiang, FounderGE yesterday disclosed having made its sixth equity investment in lithium-ion battery manufacturer A123Systems,  a developer of batteries for hybrid cars and other electric devices.

The company, started in 2001, has received investment backing from GE, Motorola, Qualcomm, Procter & Gamble's Duracell division, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and private equity firms Alliance Capital, Sequoia Capital, North Bridge Venture Partners, CMEA Ventures, FA Technology Ventures and OnPoint.

Ric Fulop, Founder and VP of Business DevelopmentA123, in collaboration with Germany's Continental AG, is in the race against South Korea'n LG Chem's Compact Power to supply  next-generation lithium-ion batteries that it is co developing with General Motors for its forthcoming electric car Chevy Volt.

In August this year, just two months after declaring its intention to bring out its electric vehicle, the Chevrolet Volt by the end of this decade, General Motors declared that its futuristic vehicle as being almost ready for testing after the successful conclusion of the design stage. (See: GM declares Volt ready for testing; additional electric cars in development)

However, GM still has considerable work to do on the Volt's lithium-ion battery and other technology in the two years before the car is scheduled to go on sale.

To help A123 develop longer lasting batteries, GE has now invested $30 million in A123's $102-million Series E financing, making it the battery manufacturer's largest single cash investor - at 9 per cent ownership.