To truly understand the impact of 10 years on green car batteries, we mostly have to wait for newer model vehicles using different battery configurations to age to that point. Not so much anymore for Ford though, which recently announced it had developed a test to put the equivalent of 10 years and 150,000 miles on lithium-ion batteries in less than a year.
Ford’s “Key Life” Test, as the Michigan auto manufacturer calls it, allows “engineers to simulate in a lab setting many factors, including location of a battery within a vehicle, the temperatures they might have to endure, and various kinds of acceleration and stopping that different drivers would apply. The scope of the testing also includes the ability to put 150,000 miles (the equivalent of about 10 years of average use) on the test batteries in about 10 months.”
It is not the only battery test Ford puts its lithium-ion cells through. Others 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 to ensure there are no issues.”
With its plans to offer five electrified vehicles by 2013 that make use of lithium-ion batteries, Ford is moving to take advantages of some of the advancements this type of battery offers over nickel-metal-hydride. These are said to include a size 25 to 30 percent smaller, and the ability to provide about three times the amount of power per cell than the previous NiMH battery technology.
The company has a lot of experience in dealing with advanced battery cells for its green vehicle development dating back to the late 1980s. It claims to have a very high success rate with its battery technology, saying that “of all Ford production hybrid vehicles produced to date, only six battery cells have failed of the 50 million that were put into use.”