Ford has invested $2.1 million in a new battery lab at the University of Michigan. The $8 million lab is expected to help researchers test new battery concepts on a small scale that could eventually be replicated for full-scale production. The battery lab will use state-of-the-art methods on pilot projects, which would allow for faster implementation on future production vehicles. Ford hopes the collaboration will help it develop batteries that are smaller, lighter, and less expensive to produce.
“We have battery labs that test and validate production-ready batteries, but that is too late in the development process for us to get our first look,” said Ted Miller, head of battery research at Ford, in a statement. “This lab will give us a stepping-stone between the research lab and the production environment, and a chance to have input much earlier in the development process. This is sorely needed, and no one else in the auto industry has anything else like it.”
Miller added that new battery chemistries have to be developed and tested, and batteries are still in their infancy. “In the span of 15 years, the industry has gone from lead-acid to nickel-metal-hydride to the lithium-ion batteries used in the Ford C-MAX and Ford Fusion Hybrids on the road today.” Lithium-ion batteries are 25 to 30 percent smaller, and can provide about three times the power per cell of nickel-metal-hydride batteries.
Ford is the only automaker to contribute to the battery lab, other investors include the University of Michigan, Michigan Economic Development Corporation, and the U.S. Department of Energy. Ford’s PHEV and EV lineup includes five models at present, a number that is only expected to grow.