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Ford Joining In $88M Electric-Car Battery Lab Project : News

Automakers, suppliers, students and eventually even consumers will benefit from an $88-million battery lab at the University of Michigan to develop cheaper and more efficient batteries that will make electrified cars more affordable.

Ford is the only automaker partnering in the lab housed at the U-M Energy Institute. The ribbon cutting is today, and the lab should be equipped and running by this time next year. It will be used for prototyping, testing and analyzing batteries and the materials that go into them.

Materials scientists and engineers, as well as suppliers and manufacturers, can work together to find breakthroughs in battery development.

Ford contributed $2.1 million, augmenting $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about $900,000 from the U-M College of Engineering.

“There is nothing like it in the industry,” said Anand Sankaran, Ford chief engineer for energy storage and hybrid systems.

Ford engineers welcome an opportunity to learn how to build and test small battery cells, work with suppliers to evaluate new technology and study how materials degrade over time.

Ted Miller, who manages Ford’s battery research, said the automaker has battery labs that test and validate production-ready batteries, “but nothing this far upstream. This is sorely needed.”

The lab also will also help suppliers of cells and other materials better understand the needs of the auto industry before they make investments.

The lab will provide training for the next generation of battery engineers.

“This kind of collaboration is essential to addressing complex challenges like sustainable energy and efficienttransportation,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.

The new lab will be available for any firm. Students will have access to state-of-the-art equipment and experts.

The Energy Institute envisions the new facility as a safe zone for non-competitive collaboration.

Ford already has a research alliance with U-M to protect intellectual property so researchers can explore some of the automaker’s proprietary work.

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