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All-electric Ford Focus to use liquid cooled/heated lithium-ion battery system

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September 2, 2010

The all-electric Ford Focus will use liquid cooling/heating for its lithium-ion battery sy...

The all-electric Ford Focus will use liquid cooling/heating for its lithium-ion battery system

One of the downsides of the lithium-ion battery systems used in electric vehicles is that their performance, reliability, safety and durability can be negatively affected by extreme temperatures. When the all-new Ford Focus Electric debuts later this year in the U.S. it will be powered by a lithium-ion battery – no news there. What is interesting, however, is that the battery system will use cooled and heated liquid to regulate battery temperature, which should extend battery life and maximize driving range.

While air-cooling methods work well for many of today’s smaller car battery systems, Ford said it needed a more aggressive thermal management system for the larger, more complex lithium-ion battery technology that will be powering the company’s all-electric vehicles. Ford chose an active liquid system that heats or chills a coolant before pumping it through the battery cooling system. This loop regulates temperature throughout the system against external conditions.

On hot days, chilled water absorbs heat from the batteries, dispersing it through a radiator before pumping it through the chiller again. On cold days, heated water warms the batteries, gradually bringing the system’s temperature to a level that allows it to provide enough discharge power for expected vehicle performance.

Additionally, the system also plays a major role in charging the vehicle. When the Focus is plugged in to recharge, the vehicle control system will automatically precondition the battery, if needed, to the optimal temperature before accepting charge. If the battery is already at the optimal temperature, the system will automatically accept charge and maintain an optimal temperature.

“All-electric vehicles do not have a conventional engine on board, so it is critical we maximize the performance of the battery under various operating temperatures,” said Sherif Marakby, Ford director, Electrification Program and Engineering. “Active liquid systems are more effective than air systems at regulating lithium-ion battery temperature. As a result, the active liquid system on Focus Electric will play a key role in providing our customers with the best performance possible.”

The Focus Electric, which will be released in the U.S. late this year and in 2012 in Europe, is one of five electrified vehicles Ford will release over the next three years. The Ford Transit Connect Electric small commercial van arrives in late 2010, followed by two next-generation hybrid electric vehicles, as well as a plug-in hybrid electric vehicle in North America in 2012 and Europe in 2013.

About the Author
Darren Quick Darren's love of technology started in primary school with a Nintendo Game & Watch Donkey Kong (still functioning) and a Commodore VIC 20 computer (not still functioning). In high school he upgraded to a 286 PC, and he's been following Moore's law ever since. This love of technology continued through a number of university courses and crappy jobs until 2008, when his interests found a home at Gizmag.   All articles by Darren Quick
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3 Comments

Tesla has used liquid cooling since inception, it's one of their key technologies, along with per cell charging calibrations.... It would not surprise me if Ford either licensed the tech from Tesla or had Tesla do R&D on it's power system.

Chris Maresca
3rd September, 2010 @ 01:22 am PDT

I wonder what method is used to heat the battery in cold weather, and also what is used to heat the interior of the vehicle? These electric cars seem to have a lot of problems. I thought that electric motors were much cheaper and simpler than internal combustion engines. I suppose that the batteries are very expensive. How long do they last?

I always feel that waste heat is wasted energy.

windykites1
3rd September, 2010 @ 03:38 pm PDT

The design of the system to use a liquid coolant to regulate battery temperature is good. However, heating and cooling take energy. Since the vehicle is strictly battery powered, the only energy available is from the battery.

I think that the LEAF idea may be superior by heating or cooling the car while it still is on the charger to save battery power. This method assumes that the car will be utilized immediatly after recharging or that the car will be charger linked until it is used.

Adrian Akau
5th January, 2011 @ 12:50 pm PST
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