Ford hybrid battery tests

Battery electric and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles with lithium-ion batteries are putting more and more odometer miles on every day. After two years on the market, some of these cars have up to 30,000 miles on them. That’s good and all, but there’s more to be done to prepare for the long term. General Motors, for example, tested the Chevrolet Spark EV batteries for over 200,000 hours. Ford, too, is looking way down the road, testing what life will be like for li-ion batteries after 10 years and 150,000 miles.

Ford set up a test lab, called the Key Life Test, to see what will happen to its new li-ion batteries. The company is also tapping into more than 20 years of company experience with hybrid electric vehicle batteries.

Ford engineers are simulating typical driving conditions that its electrified cars will be experiencing in coming years, including different temperature conditions and various acceleration and stopping styles. They are also testing how the location of the battery within a vehicle affects the pack. The scope of the testing allows Ford to put 150,000 test miles – roughly equivalent to 10 years for the average driver – on the batteries in about 10 months.

“Recent studies show consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, and regulations … now require batteries to carry warranties for greater distances.”

Battery reliability is the top purchase consideration for hybrid customers, topping 17 other factors including fuel economy and safety features, according to a recent Ford-commissioned survey. “Recent studies show consumers are keeping their vehicles longer, and regulations in some regions now require batteries to carry warranties for greater distances,” said Kevin Layden, director of Ford Electrification Programs, in a statement (available below).

Ford’s battery tests include simulating hot and sunny Phoenix weather by subjecting batteries to greater than 140-degree Fahrenheit temperatures, extreme cold conditions in Manitoba, Canada with frigid -40-degree Fahrenheit tests and by driving vehicles equipped with the batteries through ditches filled with water. As Nissan has learned, li-ion batteries driving in Arizona heat can raise the hackles of some electric car owners.

By next year, Ford will have five models on the market with advanced li-ion batteries.

By next year, Ford will have five models on the market with advanced li-ion batteries. Li-ion batteries are smaller and have the capacity to offer up three times the amount of power per cell than the NiMH batteries. The earliest versions of these batteries go back to the late 1980s for Ford, and were tested out in the Ford Ranger EV in 1998, and then in the Escape Hybrid in 2004 and the Fusion Hybrid in 2009.

Ford says that out of the 50 million battery cells that were put into use in all Ford production models built to date, only six have failed. As more car buyers are shopping for electrified models and doing their homework, they’ll probably be very interested in the results Ford learns from its Key Life Test. Ford’s press release is available below.

By Jon LeSage

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