Deep within Ford’s new 285,000-square-foot Advanced Electrification Center, the automaker has created a system that can put a vehicle’s battery through the equivalent of 10 years and 150,000 miles of travel in 10 months. That kind of testing is a must for any automaker serious about electric vehicle technology, and Ford is showing how serious it is, investing $135 million in the new facility.
The advanced diagnostics program will account for variables ranging from the battery’s location within a variety of vehicles and learner’s permit-style erratic stopping and accelerating. As for temperature changes, Ford’s crack team will put them through Phoenix-in-summer heat as well as the -40 degree cold of Manitoba, Canada. Oh, and Ford will be driving them through water-filled ditches – as you do…
The Key Life Test was designed specifically to put their new lithium-ion batteries through the wringer. Ford is hoping to make its cells the most reliable batteries on the market, and for good reason.
According to Ford’s own research, most consumers rank the batteries’ fortitude as more important than safety and overall fuel economy.
“Recent studies show consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, and regulations in some regions now require batteries to carry warranties for greater distances,” said Kevin Layden, director of Ford Electrification Programs.
By 2013, Ford will have five hybrid vehicles in their lineup, all of them sporting the brand’s tried-and-tested lithium-ion batteries. These will replace the nickel-metal-hydride (NiMH) batteries that went into Ford’s previous generation of hybrids. The Li-ion models will be about 30 percent smaller and crank out about three times more power per cell than the NiMH predecessors.
But this isn’t Ford’s first hybrid rodeo. Back in 1998, the brand had a limited release of the Ranger EV. Never had one? You’re not alone. But the Escape Hybrid that came out in 2004 started them towards further adoption.
Even without the new lab, the brand has had a good track record. Of Ford’s 50 million production hybrid vehicles, just six battery cells have failed.