Ford Design and Release Engineer Dane Hardware (right) and Ford Battery Validation Engineer Mary Fredrick measure the voltage of a battery with a digital multimeter at Ford’s Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park , Michigan.
DETROIT – Ford Motor plans to invest $ 185 million in a new battery laboratory to manufacture its own battery cells for electric vehicles, the company said Tuesday.
The funds will be used to build Ford Ion Park, a production “pilot facility” expected to open outside Detroit by the end of next year. The planned 200,000 square meter laboratory is intended to accelerate the development of the technologies as the company plans “eventually” to manufacture new battery cells and batteries, according to Hau Thai-Tang, Ford’s chief product platform and operations officer.
Ford declined to discuss a schedule for internal battery cell manufacturing. The company is currently buying cells from suppliers such as SK Innovation in South Korea.
Ford’s new facility will not be a full battery cell manufacturing facility as announced by Tesla or General Motors as part of a $ 4.6 billion investment in two US battery cell manufacturing facilities with LG Energy Solution.
According to Thai-Tang, Ford believes it still makes sense to buy the cells from suppliers until electric vehicles become more mainstream. According to IHS Markit, electric vehicles only made up about 2% of U.S. vehicle registrations last year.
“We want to give Ford the flexibility and optionality to eventually vertically integrate it, and that was one of the drivers behind the creation of this battery competence center in Ford Ion Park,” Thai-Tang told reporters during a press conference Tuesday. “It is really our job to develop this specialist knowledge and this competence in-house and to give us this flexibility in the future.”
According to Thai-Tang, Ford will focus on further developing the next-generation lithium-ion batteries used today. The company is also researching solid-state lithium-metal batteries, which are believed to be safer and better than cells currently on the market. He said Ford plans to do this through both internal work and collaboration.
Ford is hiring 150 people for Ion Park and has already hired a few.
The investment and hiring comes after Ford poured $ 100 million into a new battery benchmarking and testing lab. The company announced it opened the facility in a suburb of Detroit in Allen Park, Michigan, last year. The two investments complement Ford’s plans to invest $ 22 billion in vehicle electrification from 2016 to 2025.
Ford’s first new EV, the Mustang Mach-E, was launched in the US late last year. The company expects there will be an all-electric Ford transit van and an EV version of the Ford F-150 pickup later this year by mid-2022.
Ford’s plan to make battery cells comes six months after new Ford CEO Jim Farley said the automaker was “absolutely” interested in making its own batteries. Farley changed the course of his predecessor Jim Hackett, who had said the automaker saw “no advantage” in it. Farley succeeded Hackett on October 1.
The announcement by Ford comes one day before the publication of the results for the first quarter.
Ford’s shares have risen more than 80% since Farley became CEO, including 40% in 2021. The company’s market capitalization is more than $ 48 billion.
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