Continuing down the road that will see it introduce its first production Plug-in Hybrid Electric Vehicles (PHEV) by 2012, Ford Motor Company has announced that it's expanding its existing relationship with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) to include development and test programs with utility providers in seven new states -- Alabama, Georgia, Massachusetts, Michigan, New York, North Carolina and Ohio -- as well as continuing its current coalition with the state of California. In an equally important bit of news, the automaker also confirmed that Johnson Controls-Saft has been tapped to provide advanced Lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery packs for the first generation of its PHEV lineup.
According to Sue Cischke, Ford group vice president, Sustainability, Environment and Safety Engineering, the enhanced testing agreements will help the automaker and EPRI better understand the true impact of PHEV's on the existing electric grids, as well as on the vehicles in both a local and regional context. Although the research will key on four main areas -- battery technology, vehicle systems, customer usage, and grid infrastructure -- it will also examine the potential for stationary battery applications and energy storage alternatives.
Arshad Mansoor, EPRI vice president of Power Delivery and Markets, concurs with Cischke, adding that "The data mined from these field tests will provide crucial information that will help us continue to make advances in battery technology, vehicle systems and customer usage. This technical information will lead to PHEV standards that will ultimately help automakers and utilities develop an efficient, convenient infrastructure and a seamless interface between the road and the power grid."
Equally critical to the success of its PHEV project is Ford's new five-year contract with Johnson Controls-Saft to secure complete Li-ion battery systems for all of its first-generation plug-ins. Under the agreement, Johnson Controls-Saft will design and manufacture the individual Li-ion cells plus the mechanical, electrical, and thermal components in a target volume of 5,000 modules per year. While the individual elements will be built in a Saft facility in France, final assembly will be handled by Johnson Controls here in America.
Ford expects these new partnerships will help accelerate timely implementation of its ambitious electrification strategy. Currently, that involves bringing a full battery electric vehicle (BEV) commercial van to market in 2010, a small BEV sedan developed jointly with Magna International by 2011 and the first of its PHEV models by 2012.