Ford, University of Michigan Create New Kind of Battery Lab to Speed
Development of Future Electrified Vehicles
Oct 14, 2013 | Ann Arbor, Mich.
World-class facility at the University of Michigan allows Ford to
collaborate with battery cell manufacturers, suppliers, university
researchers and startups to test new battery concepts on a small scale
that could be replicated for full production
Facility will make it possible for Ford to build on 20 years of
battery research, and to test experimental battery chemistries while
reducing the risk and cost to suppliers
Ford is the only automaker to invest in the new battery lab facility;
latest collaboration builds on a 60-year history between Ford and the
University of Michigan
A new $8 million battery lab opened today at the University of
Michigan that will help Ford develop batteries that are smaller,
lighter and less expensive to produce. The work could accelerate
development of battery-powered vehicles that are more efficient and
affordable than today's models and that go farther on a single
The lab is a battery manufacturing facility designed to support pilot
projects. State-of-the-art 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
"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, who manages battery
research for Ford. "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 like
The lab is the result of collaboration between Ford, battery
suppliers, the University of Michigan, and the state and federal
governments, and it holds the potential for major advancements in
extending battery life and durability. 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 U.S. Department of Energy.
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.
Even so, battery development is in its infancy, and more research is
needed. Just as critical, said Miller, 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.
"It is way too early in the battery race to commit to one type of
battery chemistry," said Miller. "In the span of 15 years,
the industry has gone from lead-acid to nickel-metal-hydride to the
lithium-ion batteries used in Ford C-MAX and Ford Fusion hybrids on
the road today. Others in the auto industry have placed their bets,
but we are convinced a better solution will require input from a
multitude of partners."
Ford's electrified vehicle lineup includes five models 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 said locating the lab on a university campus will be a draw for
battery suppliers to work on complex problems in a common environment.
"We need to work on these problems together in a neutral lab
setting," he said. "This way, we all win. I think you are
going to see a lot of companies in the battery supply chain come to
Michigan to use this facility, in very short order.
"This is important for the state of Michigan, too," Miller
added. "Previous investments have been focused on battery
production, and now our state becomes a research core for batteries.
The University of Michigan benefits, because the best and brightest
from car companies, suppliers and academia will come here. In turn,
that will attract the best students. We need to nurture the next
generation of battery scientists, and it helps Ford that the campus is
less than 40 miles from Dearborn."