Ford announced the opening today of a new battery lab at the University of Michigan that the company says will help accelerate its ability to develop battery-powered vehicles.
The facility cost $8 million, to which Ford contributed $2.1 million to become the only automaker with a stake in the project. The U.S. Department of Energy, the University of Michigan and the Michigan Economic Development Corporation also contributed. Ford says it’s an important step in speeding the development process because the facility will be able to make test batteries that replicate the performance of full-scale production units, allowing for more comprehensive testing earlier.
“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 it.”
Miller also said it is far too early in the battery development process to commit to one type of chemistry. Already, the auto industry has shifted from lead acid to nickel-metal-hydride and then lithium ion. Looking into the future, he also said new chemistries need to be assessed, too.
“Others in the auto industry have placed their bets, but we are convinced a better solution will require input from a multitude of partners,” he said.
Ford hopes that locating the facility on a university campus will serve to draw more companies in for collaborative work.
“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.”
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