Ford, university open battery lab

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ANN ARBOR, Mich. — Ford Motor Co. and the Uni­versity of Michigan are opening a new battery research and manufacturing lab that they hope will speed the development of batteries for electric and hybrid cars.

The center, on the university’s campus in Ann Arbor, will bring together battery makers, car companies and researchers who will test new batteries for prototype vehicles.

Ted Miller, who manages battery research at Ford, said the lab will be unique in the nation.

He said that labs currently testing new battery chemistries can’t produce them in the amounts or formats needed for automotive research, and battery companies aren’t always sure that what
they’re developing could be useful to the automotive industry.

Ford and other automakers all have labs where they test batteries for durability and quality, Miller said, but that’s happening very late in the battery development process. The new lab could ensure that automakers’ input is heard earlier.

Electric cars have been slow sellers, making up less than 1 percent of U.S. auto sales last year. Gas-electric hybrids and plug-in hybrids – which can go further on electricity – sell in larger numbers, but still make up just 3 percent of sales. That’s partly because the batteries in those cars can add thousands of dollars to their price tags. Battery costs are expected to fall over the next decade as new materials are discovered and production increases. The new lab could accelerate that.

“There’s a lot of hunger for this,” Miller told media last week at Ford’s battery research facility near its headquarters in Dearborn. He said the lab should be able to start making batteries early next year.

The $8 million center received a $5 million grant from the Michigan Economic Develop­ment Corp., a public-private agency, and $900,000 from the university. Ford contributed $2.1 million, but Miller said other automakers have already asked about doing research there.

“This is open innovation,” said Mark Barteau, a professor of advanced energy research and director of Mich­igan’s Energy Institute. “I believe that cooperation between university researchers and industry is essential to create advances that have real-world impact.”

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oldredneckman96 10/15/13 - 12:33 am
Electric Cars

The ability to swap a discharged battery for one fully charged and ready at a station is the only way an electric car will ever work. The convenience of filling up at a gas station as fast as you can walk in and buy a Coke is ingrained in the motoring public. Any system that will allow you to leave with a fully charged battery in the same amount of time it now takes to gas up will make electric cars a reality.
I feel that a standardized size, shape and voltage battery, just as we now have “A” “AA” “C” and “D” sizes, leased not bought, can make electrics affordable and offer longevity to the vehicle. The cost of an electric has to be in line with the cost of a gas-powered car. Just as with the small batteries I mention, many different companies compete in the market with products that improve each year, yet still fit our old flashlight.
When you but a gas powered car you do not pay for all the gas you will use in the life of the car, you should not buy the battery you will use for the life of the car either. You should lease a battery and swap it just like you swap propane cylinders for your grill at the convenience store. You would pay only for the time you keep the battery and the amount you discharged it. This method would also allow a way to collect road use taxes based on discharge or miles, something that must be considered if electrics are to be a major part of the mix on the highway.
As improved batteries arrive in the market you will be able to change to the latest and greatest batteries and keep your same car. Currently, with the battery cars we now have, if a better battery comes on the market you might have to change cars to use it. Just as we now have different grades of gasoline and you can choose from many different brands, I can see many different brands of batteries with many different grades available, all that will fit your car. By standardizing batteries so they can be swapped, you could drive coast to coast as quickly and conveniently as any gas car today.
I have been saying this since Jan., 1997 to Arthur D Little Enterprises, in Sept., 01 to the US Patent office and in Oct., 05 to the US Dept of Commerce, Office of Energy Related Inventions. I am sure that every kid that ever put fresh “D” cell batteries in his flashlight understands the concept.

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