Intent on shifting its battery development program into overdrive, Ford Motor Company has opened a new $8 million state-of-the-art facility on the University of Michigan Campus in Ann Arbor. Created in collaboration with the university as well as the Michigan Economic Development Corporation and the U.S. Department of Energy, this new lab will be able to more rapidly design and build prototype batteries that replicate the performance of potential production components. According to Ted Miller, who manages the automaker's battery research operations, that ability to streamline the process will allow for even faster implementation in future vehicles.

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"We have battery labs that test and validate production-ready batteries, but that is too late in the development process for us to get our first look," said Miller. "This lab will give us a stepping-stone between the research lab and the production environment, and a chance to have input much earlier in the development process. This is sorely needed, and no one else in the auto industry has anything like it."

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Miller also expressed confidence the new facility will draw interest and involvement from a host of other companies in the battery supply chain as they, too, attempt to resolve design issues more rapidly and effectively. "This is important for the state of Michigan, too," he noted. "Previous investments have been focused on battery production, and now our state becomes a research core for batteries."

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