Ford and the University of Michigan open battery lab

In news on the advanced-battery front, Ford execs joined with University of Michigan officials last week to open a new $8 million lab to help develop batteries that are smaller, lighter and less expensive to produce.

The work could accelerate development of vehicles that are more efficient and affordable than today’s models and that go farther on a single charge, according to a report on the HybridCars website.

The lab 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.”

In addition to $2.1 million from Ford, the lab includes significant investments from battery suppliers, U-M, and the state and federal governments. Ford believes the lab holds the potential for major advancements in extending battery life and durability.

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.”