University of Michigan and Ford open new battery lab

A new $8 million battery lab opened this week at the University of Michigan, the result of a collaboration between the university, Ford Motor Company, battery suppliers, and the state and federal governments. The lab is actually a battery manufacturing facility in which state-of-the-art methods will be used to make test batteries that replicate the performance of full-scale production batteries.

“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.”

Last year, Ford invested $135 million in battery design, engineering and production, and doubled its battery testing capabilities. Even so, said Miller, battery development is in its infancy, and more research is needed. New chemistries need 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 lithium-ion. Others in the auto industry have placed their bets, but we are convinced a better solution will require input from a multitude of partners.”

 

Photo: Ford C-MAX Hybrid battery packs (by Sam VarnHagen/Ford Motor Co.)
Source: Ford via Green Car Congress