While still about a year away from start of production, Ford has confirmed that its all-new 2012 Ford Focus Electric will use liquid cooling to optimize the operation of the car's advanced lithium-ion battery pack and to help ensure it can realistically travel 100 miles on a single charge. While no one disputes the critical impact of effective thermal management on the performance, reliability, safety and durability of the battery pack in any EV, manufacturers have come down on different sides of the question of whether to rely on air or liquid to handle that function.

According to Anand Sankaran, Ford executive technical leader, Energy Storage and HV Systems, there's only one clear answer. He contends that while air cooling is adequate for many of current smaller, primarily nickel-metal hydride battery packs, the larger and more complex lithium-ion batteries need more aggressive temperature control that only a liquid-based system -- which subjects the cooling medium to either heating or chilling as external circumstances require -- can effectively deliver.

In addition to rigorously monitoring the temperature and condition of the battery while the vehicle is being driven, Sankaran notes that Ford's liquid-based cooling system is designed to swing into action anytime the car gets plugged in for a recharge. It automatically senses and responds to the ambient conditions and will precondition the pack to the optimal temperature before it begins accepting any charge as well as maintain the ideal cell temperature for the duration of the process.

The 2012 Ford Focus Electric is one of five new EV/hybrid offerings the automaker will introduce during the next three years, starting with the Ford Transit Connect Electric commercial van that goes on sale here in late 2010. Beyond that, Ford also plans to add two next-gen hybrids and one plug-in hybrid to its U.S. lineup by 2012.

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