A new $8 million battery lab opened Monday at the University of Michigan to help Ford Motor Co. develop batteries that are smaller, lighter, and less expensive to produce, potentially accelerating the development of battery-powered vehicles.
The lab will support pilot projects and use state-of-the-art manufacturing methods 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.”
Miller says that locating the lab on the university’s campus will allow battery suppliers to work together in a neutral setting and anticipates that several companies will end up using the facility.
“This is important for the state of Michigan, too,” Miller said. “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,” Miller said.
The lab is the result of collaboration between Ford, battery suppliers, U-M, and the state and federal governments. Ford contributed $2.1 million to the facility.