Ford Ion Park battery centre to develop lithium-ion, solid-state battery cells in Romulus, Michigan

Ford has announced that it will be constructing Ford Ion Park, a global battery centre of excellence in Romulus, Michigan for the accelerated research and development of battery and battery cell technology, the automaker said in a statement.

Ford Ion Park is a US$100 million (RM423 million) part of a larger US$185 million (RM782 million) investment that will see it become a home base for the research of new technologies, as well as the piloting of advanced manufacturing techniques that will enable Ford to scale breakthrough battery cell designs and to optimise all aspects of the value chain, from the mining of raw materials to the recycling of finished products.

Here, an existing 270,000 square-foot facility will be refurbished to accommodate up to 200 engineers as well as pilot-scale equipment for the design and manufacture of electrodes, cells and arrays.

In 2010, Ford chose Michigan as the location of the centre of excellence for electric vehicles, and the Romulus site was chosen with collaboration and expedited technology-sharing in mind, the company said. The fully-electric F-150 Lightning will be assembled at the Rouge Electric Vehicle Center in Dearborn, Michigan.

Batteries for the F-150 Lightning will be made through a joint venture between Ford and SK Innovation of South Korea, to be called BlueOvalSK. These will power vehicles from the Ford and Lincoln brands.

The Van Dyke Transmission Plant has also been repurposed to become the Van Dyke Electric Powertrain Center, expanding its production line for the production of electric motors and electric transaxles for hybrid and fully electric vehicles, retaining a total 225 jobs at the site, said Ford.

Separately, Ford along with BMW Group and venture capital firm Volta Energy Technologies entered into a USD$130 million (RM536 million) funding round for solid-state battery start-up Solid Power, which is expected to begin operations in 2022 for the production of full-scale automotive batteries.

Solid-state batteries appear to show the way forward, as they do not use liquid electrolyte that is contained in conventional lithium-ion batteries, and they can be lighter, contain greater energy density and provide greater EV battery range at lower cost. These can also be manufactured on present-day lithium-ion battery production lines, and in the case of Ford, allow about 70% of its capital investment to be reused.

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