Everything's coming up batteries. Over in Ann Arbor, MI, the University of Michigan is announcing a new lab to test out new battery chemistries and concepts, all with an eye towards building better electric cars. The basic idea is to see if these "experimental battery chemistries" will work on a small scale before automakers and suppliers build a whole bunch of them. The lab is scheduled to open next fall and will be available to "any automotive or non-automotive firm," according to The Detroit News.

Ford is investing $2.1 million in the $8-million facility, the only automaker to contribute money. The rest of the money comes from the University of Michigan, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) and the US Department of Energy. Ford says it wants to use the lab to "develop batteries that are smaller, lighter and less expensive to produce." We assume that means any future Focus Electric models - which start at $35,200 - will carry something less than the $18,000 price premium over the lowest-cost standard gas Focus, which can be had for $16,605. In the press release, available below, Ford's battery research manager, Ted Miller, basically admits the company's battery development process to this point hasn't been up to snuff. "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," he said.

The University of Michigan also has a connection to one of Ford's main rivals, General Motors. GM Ventures (along with the MEDC) invested an undisclosed amount of money in solid-state li-ion battery technology developer Sakti3, which was founded by former U of M professor Ann Marie Sastry. Sastry left U of M in 2012, the year Sakti3 was named one of the "Top 50 Most Innovative Companies" by MIT's Technology Review Magazine.
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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 charge.

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 vehicles.

"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."

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."
About Ford Motor Company

Ford Motor Company, a global automotive industry leader based in Dearborn, Mich., manufactures or distributes automobiles across six continents. With about 177,000 employees and 65 plants worldwide, the company's automotive brands include Ford and Lincoln. The company provides financial services through Ford Motor Credit Company. For more information regarding Ford and its products worldwide, please visit corporate.ford.com.

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 8 Months Ago
      And at german universities they tell that batteries won't be ready within 50 years and EVs are a failure. So German goverment justdelyed the new jurisdiction regarding emissions. it will harm german carmakers. because they make big premium cars with none of them having an alternate drivetrain. don't count the audi hybrids. they don't sell them. if you go to a dealership they tell you that their own product don't work properly. I did not believe my ears. It wont work on the autobahn. it won't work in winter. they tell to their customers. And as we know Mr. Winterkorn stated that it is impossible to make a EV than can go beyond 93 miles. so we need to delay the jurisdiction. also the laws are unfair because the japanese have hybrids and small cars. that emit less co2. I bet that this tactics will hurt Germany in the future whilst it is already beneficial for the us
      Cool Disco Dan
      • 8 Months Ago
      But we are in a shut down and have to raise the debt ceiling so how can a nation that is broke spend more money it doesn't have on things it doesn't need? If these things were so great private companies would be doing in their own skunkworks with their own money.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Just too bad Michigan is such a political place now, rather than someplace where they do real things. Probably a big waste of money, and in the end there will be no product and the geniuses at U of Mich announcing battery technology is not ready and we must depend on ICE. I think the EV advocates need to realise that many a professor has reached his tenure by conforming to what the deans want, which is to support the status quo. Most higher education institutions are about making money now and not helping the world, and U of Mich is a prime example.
        • 8 Months Ago
        I wish I could disagree, but I fear you are correct...
      • 8 Months Ago
      So GM and Ford are getting government assistance in a round-a-bout way. No surprise there. Tesla did get $10 million grant from California for the promotion of the Model X.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Ford Motors, and the Ford family , have a long, and very commendable history of supporting University research with ' no strings' attached. A condition of most Ford family foundation donations, is that knowledge gained benefits the entire scientific community. It's easy to be cynical about the motives of individuals, and corporations who invest in research, but this sort of private investment is very important to scientific advancement.
      • 8 Months Ago
      Waste of money
      • 8 Months Ago
      4 million articles on batteries, zero articles on electric highways. :(
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