With a new Ion Park battery lab.
Ford is taking the next step in the vertical integration of battery-powered vehicles. The Blue Oval plans to create a new global battery center in southeast Michigan called Ford Ion Park. The company hasn't nailed down a location yet, nor will it say when it plans to start manufacturing its own cells, but it is going to spend $185 million on the project. The facility will "develop and manufacture lithium-ion and solid-state vehicle battery cells and arrays, test manufacturing approaches, while the team optimizes all aspects of the value chain - from mines to recycling."
"We're already scaling production of all-electric vehicles around the world as more customers experience and crave the fun-to-drive benefits of electric vehicles with zero emissions," said Hau Thai-Tang, Ford's chief product platform, and operations officer. "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."
The starting team will include 150 experts from different disciplines including battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality and finance to help Ford more quickly develop and manufacture battery cells and batteries. That team will work with other teams from Ford's new battery benchmarking lab, Ford customer service and key suppliers and partners.
The 200,000-square-foot lab will be led by Anand Sankaran, a 30-year veteran with experience in batteries and electrification. He's currently the company's director of Electrified Systems Engineering. He's already worked on the original Escape Hybrid, the Mustang Mach-E and the 2022 F-150 Hybrid. He also holds 32 US patents.
Ford's Hau Thai-Tang explained where we're at in Ford's timeline, and where we're heading.
"Phase 1 is early adoption," said Hau Thai-Tang. "The best approach then is to work with suppliers. Phase 2, which we're entering now, is the early majority. This is where the battery lab will give Ford the flexibility and expertise [to make the next step]."
Thai-Tang also noted that as solid-state batteries come online, Ford is talking to companies to make sure the tech can scale to power a vehicle, "not just stamp-sized," and that Ford can reuse as much as possible if the leading technology changes.
Ford Ion Park will work with the company's new Battery Benchmarking and Test Lab in Allen Park, Mich (above). That will help the team determine the right sizes and chemistries to power Ford's EVs. That 185K-square-foot lab opened last year and has 150 test chambers to replicate extreme conditions and 325 channels for development work. It can support battery validation, controls calibration, pack development, and pilot battery pack projects.
This is supremely important for Ford, as the recent launches of the new Explorer and Escape Hybrid haven't gone perfectly, with each suffering setbacks and quality issues early on in the delivery process.
"We've had some tough challenges in recent years," said Dave Filipe, Ford Vehicle Hardware Modules. "We've added quality experts and have also been leveraging more community data. We have more insight now and we're going to adapt our learnings into quality. Anyone can come up with an EV truck or van, but we want to make sure that we sign off using our own standards."
This lab is just a small part of Ford's commitment to invest at least $22 billion through 2025 to deliver electric, connected vehicles, based on its most popular nameplates. Ford noted here that the electric Ford Transit van goes on sale late this year and an electric F-150 pickup arrives mid-2022.