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Ford Motor Co Announces ‘Ford Ion Park' to Accelerate the Development & Manufacturing of Advanced EV Batteries

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【Summary】U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co is preparing for its electrified future with the opening of a new EV battery R&D facility. The company announced on Tuesday Ford its investing $185 million in a new global battery center of excellence named “Ford Ion Park” in Southeast Michigan. The facility will help the automaker accelerate its research and development of EV batteries and battery cell technology, including future battery cell manufacturing.

FutureCar Staff    Apr 27, 2021 2:45 PM PT
Ford Motor Co Announces ‘Ford Ion Park' to Accelerate the Development & Manufacturing of Advanced EV Batteries
Ford design and release engineer Dane Hardware tests a battery at Ford’s Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park, Michigan.

U.S. automaker Ford Motor Co is preparing for its electric future with the opening of a new R&D facility. The company announced on Tuesday Ford its investing $185 million in a new global battery center of excellence called "Ford Ion Park" in Southeast Michigan. The facility will help the automaker accelerate its research and development of EV batteries and battery cell technology, including future battery cell manufacturing. 

Ion Park, which is scheduled to open later this year, is consolidating all of Ford's battery development work. Ford plans to hire a centralized team of 150 experts in battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality and finance to help Ford more quickly develop and manufacture battery cells for its future EVs.

The Ford Ion Park team will also explore integration and innovation opportunities across all aspects of the value chain, from the mining of raw materials to EV battery recycling, Ford said. 

Ford said that the R&D work is already underway.

Ford tapped its current director of Electrified Systems Engineering Anand Sankaran to lead the Ford Ion Park team as its new director. Sankaran is a 30-year veteran at Ford and will bring his expertise in EV batteries and electrification to the effort. 

Sankaran was a 1999 Henry Ford Technology Award winner for his electrification work at the Ford Research Lab. Sankaran's technical innovations were used on key production vehicles, including the original Ford Escape Hybrid, 2021 Mustang Mach-E and the upcoming 2022 F-150 Hybrid pickup.

Sankaran also holds 32 U.S. patents in automotive power electronics and hybrid vehicle technologies and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

"Investing in more battery R&D ultimately will help us speed the process to deliver more, even better, lower cost EVs for customers over time," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform and operations officer. "We are modernizing Ford's battery development and manufacturing capabilities so we can better control costs and production variables in-house and scale production around the world with speed and quality."

Ford will also open a collaborative learning lab next year in Southeast Michigan that is dedicated to developing, testing and building vehicle battery cells.

The 200,000 sq ft learning lab will include equipment for electrode, cell and array design and manufacturing. The lab will use state-of-the-art technology to pilot new manufacturing techniques that will allow Ford to quickly scale breakthrough battery cell designs that can offer longer ranges and faster charging times.

The team will apply customer insights to optimize battery technologies that deliver high performance and capability that Ford's commercial truck customers require. 

Ford plans to develop distinct batteries depending on the application. Ford will develop batteries that deliver towing and off-road capability for truck customers and others that offer stop-and-go driving efficiency for fleet operators to use for urban deliveries.

Ford's new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory which opened late last year in Allen Park, Mich., will test and identify the right battery cells and chemistries to best meet different customers' needs. The state-of-the-art lab includes battery cell and pack test rooms, test benches and benchmarking facilities to support everything from battery cell validation, calibration, pack development and pilot battery pack projects using different battery chemistries. 

Experts at Ford's Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory have analyzed more than 150 types of battery cells for their potential use in Ford's future EVs.

"While some automakers have placed their bets, we are going to use this lab with the help of partners and suppliers to fine-tune our batteries to our vehicles and customer needs, exploring next-generation lithium ion solutions, including solid-state batteries," Sankaran said.

The lab team is able to replicate the performance of full-scale production batteries under extreme weather and customer use cases, Ford said.

Both Ford and General Motors are trailing segment leader Tesla in the electric vehicle space. Tesla's market cap has soared to over $700 billion as of last year, which is more than both Ford and GM combined. But Ford is not sitting back and letting Tesla dominate the EV segment unchallenged.

Ford said it secured more than 2,500 U.S. patents in electrification technologies, with another 4,300 patents pending. But so far the company has no immediate plans to manufacture its own battery cells like rival GM is doing with its joint venture battery factories with South Korean battery maker LG.

In the meantime, Ford  is investing billions to build both connected and electrified vehicles. The first of these vehicles is the new Mustang-inspired Mach-E SUV, which is Ford's first mass-market EV.  

The Mach-E will be followed by fully-electric versions of Ford's existing nameplates, such as the widely popular F-150 pickup which is the best selling pickup in North America. The all-electric F-150 arrives by mid-2022.

In Europe, Ford plans to electrify its entire lineup by 2030. Ford also is investing $1 billion in a new electric vehicle manufacturing center in Cologne, Germany to build a high-volume all-electric passenger vehicle for European customers starting in 2023.

In China, which is the world's biggest auto market, Ford is preparing to produce the Mustang Mach-E SUV for local customers later this year. Ford is establishing a BEV division with a direct sales model and network that will reach 20 major cities across China this year. 

For the EV charging needs of customers in China, Ford has partnered with China's State Grid and EV startup NIO Inc. to offer EV customers access to more than 300,000 public charging stations, of which 160,000 are fast-charging, in more than 340 cities across the country.

In February, Ford announced that its increasing its investment in electrification and autonomous driving technology to $29 billion, representing a massive investment in the automaker's future as the company prepares to take on rivals Tesla, Volkswagen, BMW in the EV space.


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