When Ford CEO Jim Farley took over for Jim Hackett last fall, he admitted that the automaker was “looking into” battery cell manufacturing. And just last week, Farley doubled down by saying that we could “expect from Ford lots of announcements” on that very topic. Now, the automaker has revealed its new global battery center, called Ford Ion Park, which it says will accelerate research and development of battery and battery cell technology, including future battery manufacturing.
“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 company is building on nearly two decades of battery expertise by centralizing a cross-functional team of 150 experts in battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality, and finance to help Ford more quickly develop and manufacture battery cells and batteries.
The Ford Ion Park team also is exploring better integration and innovation opportunities across all aspects of the value chain – from mines to recycling – working with all teams within Ford, including experts at Ford’s new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory, Ford Customer Service Division, plus key suppliers and partners.
“We are creating new tools and solutions we need for a carbon-free, affordable and better future,” Thai-Tang said. “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.”
The Ford Ion Park team already is underway. In addition, a $185 million collaborative learning lab in Southeast Michigan that is dedicated to developing, testing, and building vehicle battery cells and cell arrays opens late next year.
This 200,000 square-foot learning lab will include pilot-scale equipment for electrode, cell, and array design and manufacturing and will use state-of-the-art technology to pilot new manufacturing techniques that will allow Ford to quickly scale breakthrough battery cell designs with novel materials once the company vertically integrates battery cells and batteries.
Anand Sankaran will lead the Ford Ion Park team as its new director. A 30-year veteran of Ford, Sankaran brings to the new position decades of battery and electrification expertise – including his current role as the company’s director of Electrified Systems Engineering, as a 1999 Henry Ford Technology Award winner for his electrification work at the Ford Research Lab, and a product development leader who applied his research and technical innovations on key production vehicles, including the original Ford Escape Hybrid, 2021 Ford Mustang Mach-E and 2022 Ford F-150 Electric.
Sankaran also holds 32 U.S. patents in automotive power electronics and hybrid vehicle technologies and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. “Ford’s modern EV journey started with Escape Hybrid in 2004, the world’s first hybrid SUV, and it continues today – all driven by the inspiration to deliver no-compromise vehicles for a better world,” he said.
The Ford Ion Park team will ensure batteries are optimized for its diverse customers, from daily commuters to performance enthusiasts to commercial vehicle fleet operators. The team will apply customer insights to optimize battery technologies that deliver the performance and capability truck, utility, commercial vehicle, and fleet owners value most. That means creating distinct batteries and technologies to deliver meaningful towing and off-road capability for truck customers as well as stop-and-go driving efficiency for fleet operators in cities worldwide.
Ford’s new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park, Michigan, will help quickly test and identify the right battery cells and chemistries to power Ford’s growing EV lineup to best meet different customers’ needs.
“While some automakers have placed their bets, we are going to use this lab with the help of partners and suppliers to fine-tune our batteries to our vehicles and customer needs – exploring next-generation lithium-ion solutions, including solid-state batteries,” Sankaran said.
Ford’s Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory, which opened late last year, has 150 test chambers and 325 channels for development work. Experts at the $100 million, 185,000 square-foot lab already have analyzed more than 150 types of battery cells.
The state-of-the-art lab houses battery cell and pack test rooms, test benches, and benchmarking facilities to support battery cell design validation, controls calibration, pack development, and pilot battery pack projects with different chemistries. The lab team can replicate the performance of full-scale production batteries under extreme weather and customer use cases, speeding implementation in future vehicles.