Ford Launches Global Battery Center for Detroit Region

Ford has announced Ford Ion Park, which will ramp up battery development for electric vehicles. Pictured is Ford’s new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park. // Photo courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Dearborn’s Ford Motor Co. has announced Ford Ion Park, a new global battery center in southeast Michigan. It is designed to accelerate research and development of battery and battery cell technology, including future battery manufacturing.

An exact location has not yet been determined. The company is building on nearly 20 years of battery expertise by centralizing a cross-functional team of 150 experts in battery technology development, research, manufacturing, planning, purchasing, quality, and finance.

The team also is exploring better integration and innovation opportunities across all aspects of the value chain from mines to recycling, working with all teams within Ford, including experts at Ford’s new Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory in Allen Park, Ford’s customer service division, and suppliers and partners.

Ford’s Battery Benchmarking and Test Laboratory will help test and identify the right battery cells and chemistries to power Ford’s growing electric vehicle lineup. The lab opened late last year and has 150 test chambers and 325 channels for development work. Experts at the $100 million, 185,000-square-foot lab have analyzed more than 150 types of battery cells.

“We are creating new tools and solutions we need for a carbon-free, affordable and better future,” says Hau Thai-Tang, chief product platform and operations officer. “We are modernizing Ford’s battery development and manufacturing capabilities so we can better control costs and production variables in-house and scale production around the world with speed and quality.”

The team is already underway. A $185 million collaborative learning lab in southeast Michigan dedicated to developing, testing, and building vehicle battery cells and cell arrays is expected to open late next year.

The 200,000-square-foot lab will include pilot-scale equipment for electrode, cell, and array design and manufacturing. It will pilot new manufacturing techniques that will allow Ford to scale battery cell designs with new materials once the company vertically integrates battery cells and batteries.

Anand Sankaran will lead the team as its director. A 30-year Ford veteran, he is currently the company’s director of electrified systems engineering. He helped develop the Escape Hybrid, 2021 Mustang Mach-E, and 2022 F-150 Hybrid. Sankaran also holds 32 U.S. patents in automotive power electronics and hybrid vehicle technologies and is a fellow of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers.

Ford announced this year its commitment to invest at least $22 billion through 2025 to deliver connected, electrified vehicles. The Mustang Mach-E is already on sale, the all-electric Ford Transit is set to go on sale late this year, and the all-electric F-150 is expected to arrive by mid-2022.

In Europe, Ford is moving to an all-electric lineup by 2030 with its commercial vehicle range 100 percent zero-emissions capable (all-electric or plug-in hybrid) by 2024. Ford is also investing $1 billion in a new electric vehicle manufacturing center in Cologne, Germany to build a high-volume, all-electric passenger vehicle for European customers starting in 2023.

In China, Ford is preparing to produce the Mustang Mach-E for local customers later this year. It also announced it would establish a battery electric vehicle division with a direct sales model and network that will reach 20 major cities across China this year. In addition, Ford has partnered with China’s State Grid and NIO to offer more than 300,000 public charging stations in more than 340 cities across the country.

Ford has secured more than 2,500 U.S. patents in electrification technologies with another 4,300 patents pending.

Since 2004, the company has sold more than 1 million hybrids, plug-in hybrids, and all-electric vehicles. It has also integrated four generations of batteries into its vehicles. By the end of the year, Ford expects to be manufacturing electrified vehicles and supporting technologies at more than 15 powertrain and vehicle assembly plants globally.

Ford has assembled hybrid battery packs and electric motors in Michigan since 2012. In 2010, it invested $135 million in the design, engineering, and production of these components for hybrids.

In related news, Ford has announced new strategic assignments for two senior executives.

Steven Armstrong, who led the Changan Ford joint venture in China for the past year and a half, will become transformation officer for South America and India effective May 1. He will lead evaluation of capital allocations to India and conclusion of restructuring of Ford’s South America business.

Daniel Justo, currently Ford’s CFO in South America, will become president of the region. Justo and Anurag Mehrotra, managing director of Ford of India, will report to Armstrong in his new role.

After a transition period, Lyle Watters, who is president of South America and international markets group, will relocate to Shanghai and take on the newly created position of general manager of Ford Passenger Vehicle Division within Ford China starting July 1.

Watters and his team will be accountable for broadening Ford’s appeal to and enhancing the experience of customers with must-have products and services, more and more of them developed in-country for China consumers. At last week’s Shanghai Auto Show, Ford China unveiled the latest additions to its rapidly expanding vehicle portfolio: the Escape plug-in hybrid SUV, a localized version of the all-electric Mustang Mach-E, and the fully networked EVOS, the first product from Ford’s China 2.0 plan.

Both Watters and Armstrong are corporate officers, Armstrong will report to Kumar Galhotra, president of Americas and international market group, and Dianne Craig, who became president of Ford’s international markets group in February. Watters will report to Anning Chen, president and CEO of Ford China.

Armstrong’s 34-year career has included assignments around the globe including as chairman, vice president, and CEO of Ford of Europe and president of Ford South America.

Watters started with Ford in 1987 and has held leadership positions throughout Europe, North America, and South America including controller for Ford’s premier automotive group and business strategy director, CFO, and head of strategic planning for Ford of Europe.

He Xiaoqing will be Armstrong’s successor as president of Changan Ford and report to Watters. He joined Ford China in April 2019 as director of enterprise alliances.