Lithium-ion batteries are an industry standard for plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, and Ford is convinced that they will be useful in cars without electric drive motors, too. The automaker is working with Samsung to research a dual-battery system that increases gas vehicle fuel economy.

Ford and Samsung SDI, an affiliate of Samsung Group, announced their research efforts this week. The result of 10 years of research, the dual-battery system detailed pairs a traditional 12-volt lead-acid car battery with a lithium-ion battery.

The purpose of the supplementary battery is to take advantage of the li-ion battery's quicker recharge-discharge speeds for regenerative braking in non-hybrid vehicles. The dual-battery system powers vehicle systems and accessories in place of the engine when Ford's Auto Start-Stop system kicks in during braking. Meanwhile, the regenerative system captures and stores up to 95 percent of the energy otherwise lost during braking.

"We are currently expanding our Auto Start-Stop technology across 70 percent of our lineup, and this dual-battery system has the potential to bring even more levels of hybridization to our vehicles for greater energy savings across the board,” explains Ted Miller, Ford senior manager for energy storage strategy and research. "Although still in research, this type of battery could provide a near-term solution for greater reduction of carbon dioxide."

Miller says that the dual-battery system could be put into production in the "fairly near term."

The dual-battery systems uses lithium-ion technology to augment the regular car battery, but Ford believes it has the potential to one day replace it. A second part of its joint research is an ultra-lightweight li-ion unit that could serve in place of the 12-volt lead-acid battery, providing traditional starting capabilities as well as regenerative braking functions.

"Lithium-ion batteries are typically used in consumer electronics because they are lighter and more energy-dense than other types of batteries, which also make them ideal for the vehicle," states Mike O’Sullivan, Samsung SDI North America's vice president for automotive battery systems. "Battery technology is advancing rapidly and lithium-ion could one day completely replace traditional 12-volt lead-acid batteries, providing better fuel efficiency for drivers."

Ford says that the ultralight lithium-ion battery could be used in conjunction with other weight-cutting strategies to make future vehicles even lighter. The battery technology is a longer term research project that won't be ready for production for years.

Source: Ford