Ford Focuses on Battery, Engine Innovation and Trucks on Through

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Ford’s goal of electrifying its fleet appears to be running on all cylinders. The company is creating battery electric versions of both of its award winners –2009 Car (Focus) and Truck (Transit Connect Van).

Because energy storage will make or break the arrival of electric vehicles, Ford has joined GM in bringing the battery pack assembly and management under its tent.

Ford is investing nearly $1 billion in manufacturing facilities in Michigan that will include hybrid, battery-electric and plug-in vehicles as well as the lithium ion battery packs. Ford manager of global electrified fleets Greg Frenette explained that “there’s a strong tie-in marrying battery control…. to the rest of propulsion, and we’re in the best position to manage that.”

He said that in addition to wanting to develop the software that controls battery performance and thermal management, the company also felt that managing pack assembly was also key to vehicle performance. “Packaging is significant part of installed cost. Doing it ourselves will enable the quality of execution to be more consistent across battery packs.”

Ford, like GM, wants to control much of the intellectual property around its battery and propulsion systems. The company is using batteries from Johnson Controls-Saft for its current fleet of test plug-in hybrid Escapes and also for a plug-in hybrid due out in 2012. But for the 2011 Focus BEV, Ford turned to another unnamed battery vendor. Frenette said the company will continue to look for more battery partners.

This is a smart strategy as it will force battery suppliers to compete aggressively on price, and safeguards against any supplier having production problems. The same goes for considering multiple battery chemistries, which are evolving so quickly that any commitment to a single chemistry is likely to be premature. “Battery chemistries and development are fluid and dynamic, and [multisourcing]gives us the capability to go with cutting edge.”

Ford has not announced any target volumes for battery production when the facility goes online in 2012, but manufacturing the packs internally will enable the company to eliminate some of the margin that normally goes to battery manufacturers. Pike Research expects the installed cost of batteries to drop by about 10 percent during 2010 as manufacturing across the industry ramps up.

Ford is starting to live up to being the green company that Bill Ford (along with Kermit the Frog) promised several years ago. Ford is coming out with a new smaller turbocharged EcoBoost engine that is expected to improve fuel efficiency by 20 percent when compared to large engines with similar horsepower. Ford has shifted its turbocharger partner as well, having used Honeywell in the past, but now incorporating a Borg-Warner product.

John Gartner is an Industry Analyst at Pike Research and the Editor in Chief of Matter Network.

Article appearing courtesy of Matter Network

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  1. Ford company is using batteries from Johnson Controls-Saft for its current fleet of test plug-in hybrid Escapes and also for a plug-in hybrid due out in 2012. The ford will use battery packs that Ford will use in its hybrids and electric vehicles are 25 to 30 percent smaller and 50 percent lighter than NiMH batteries. Ford is accelerating its research, development and testing of advanced Li-ion battery technology, thanks, in part, to a $55 million tax credit incentive from the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. The ford previously has other alliance to accelerate the commercialization of electrified vehicles.

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