By Jonathan Pitman
Ford Motor Company, in an attempt to offer more fuel efficient vehicles and technology, unveils its latest plans by introducing new Lithium (Li-ion) batteries in its hybrid and electric vehicles between 2010 and 2012. According to Ford, the plan has called for extensive research that will better the technology over time. Right now research is in the early stages and is being conducted by battery suppliers and university researchers to help advance the cause. The participants include Michigan Economic Development Corporation, the University of Michigan, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Susan Cischke, Group Vice President, Ford Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, stated, “Ford is strongly positioned to accelerate its electric vehicle strategy this year thanks to the significant research that we’ve already completed. Our collaboration work with suppliers and partners will help us be one of the first automakers to bring the next generation of personal transportation to market.”
Ann Marie Sastry, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the University of Michigan Energy Systems Engineering Program had this to say about Ford’s effort to promote the new technology: “The Efforts of the Ford team to reduce the cost and mass of Li-ion systems have been important to the research community at large. Their efforts are yielding improved Li-ion systems, and more knowledgeable workers.”
Along with Ford, these partner organizations will be conducting digital simulations tests, collecting degradation data, that Ford and its battery suppliers have used to improve Li-ion performance. According to Ted Miller, Manager, Ford Energy Storage Strategy and Research, “Our plug in electric hybrid vehicles fleet is a direct result of our Li-ion research, and the data mined from these field tests will provide crucial information as we make advances in battery technology.”
The new technology will replace the existing nickel based batteries that are currently being used. Researchers say the Li-ion battery systems will be 5 percent more energy efficient than the nickel metal hydride battery used in today’s hybrid electric vehicles. Also, from a cost prospective, it is 30 percent less expensive at the annual volume of 3 million hybrids. The test vehicle featuring the new Li-ion battery is the Ford Escape Hybrid model.
The battery itself is said to be 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than the existing nickel batteries, which makes them, easier to pack into a vehicle.