Ford plans to invest $185 million to establish a new battery lab that will propel the brand’s efforts to manufacture its own energy cells for future electric vehicles. This initiative will help the Blue Oval bring battery development in-house. Currently, the company procures its batteries from suppliers such as SK Innovation, among others.
Other manufacturers have recognized the benefits of in-house development and manufacturing. For example, Volvo Cars recently made a significant investment in developing and designing electric drive systems in-house with the opening of a new electric motor lab in Shanghai; this lab is part of the automaker’s global network of testing facilities. The Swedish car brand is also making strides toward in-house battery development at its labs in Sweden and China.
The yet-to-be-built Ford Ion Park will develop, test, and build vehicle battery cells. It will serve as an engineering and research center for advancing battery technology and a “pilot facility” to test future battery manufacturing techniques for efficiency and scalability.
“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,” said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer.
Ford’s new 185,000 square-foot Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory, which opened last year in Allen Park, Michigan, will support the development work at Ford Ion Park. The facility tests battery chemistries to determine which cells are best for which vehicle applications. The lab has analyzed over 150 battery types in the short time it has been in operation.
Despite Ford’s efforts, automakers such as General Motors appear to be further ahead on the battery development front. While Ford Ion Park will be more of a production proving ground and learning lab, GM’s efforts are well down the road to full battery manufacturing. GM recently announced the second of two battery plants as part of an overall $4.6 billion investment with partner LG Energy Solution.
Ford’s battery development plans follow the company’s recent announcement to double its investment in electric vehicles to $22 billion through 2025. The automaker recently introduced the electric Mustang Mach-E; it plans to electrify other popular nameplates such as the Ford Transit and the F-150 pickup truck, arriving this year and next year, respectively. Other EVs will follow.
Ford Ion Park will open by the end of 2022 in southeast Michigan. It will employ a team of 150 people.