The goal of the research is to accelerate development of battery-powered vehicles that are more efficient and affordable than today’s models and that go farther on a single charge, the automaker says.
The lab is the result of collaboration between Ford, battery suppliers, the University of Michigan, and the state and federal governments. Ford, the only automaker to invest in the facility, contributed $2.1 million. Other investors include the University of Michigan, Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the Department of Energy.
The lab is a battery manufacturing facility designed to support pilot projects. Manufacturing methods will be used to make test batteries that replicate the performance of full-scale production batteries, allowing for faster implementation in future production vehicles.
Ford has been supporting battery research for more than 20 years. Last year, the company invested $135 million in design, engineering and production of key battery components, and doubled its battery testing capabilities. Ford was able to accelerate durability testing, with test batteries now accumulating 150,000 miles and 10 years’ life in about 10 months.
Still, battery development is in its infancy and more research is needed, Ford says. Just as critical, according to Ted Miller, who manages battery research for Ford, is the need for new chemistries to be assessed in a credible cell format, which means small-scale battery cells can be tested in place of full-scale production batteries without compromising the test results.
Ford’s electrified vehicle lineup includes five models such as the C-Max (pictured) equipped with advanced lithium-ion batteries. Earlier-generation vehicles featured nickel-metal-hydride batteries. Lithium-ion batteries are about 25 percent to 30 percent smaller, and can provide about three times the power per cell of nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
Miller says locating the lab on a university campus will be a draw for battery suppliers to work on complex problems in a common environment.
Late last month Ford began mailing checks to C-Max Hybrid owners as compensation for the vehicle’s lowered fuel economy rating. In August, Ford lowered the 2013 C-Max Hybrid’s rating to 43 miles per gallon in city and highway driving from 47 mpg.