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Ford's New Technology Keeps EV Batteries Cool in the Heat

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author photo by Holly Reich June 2011

With temperatures rising, drivers in electric vehicles have something else to think about: hot batteries. Extreme temperatures can affect a battery's performance and potentially reduce its range.

The engineers at Ford haven't missed a beat. They've developed a system for the new Focus Electric that cools the lithium-ion battery and keeps it working at its peak, even in the hottest conditions.

The advanced active liquid cooling and heating system regulates the temperature of the battery packs, which are designed to operate under a range of ambient environments.

"If the battery became too hot, we would have to limit the use of energy to protect it. The liquid cooled system allows us to reduce those constraints and get the most out of the battery," said Dave Fabricatore, Thermal Program Management team engineer. "We're helping owners by making sure their battery is always ready to go, regardless of the weather."

How does it work? A simple explanation: The vehicle uses an integrated cooling system to keep its different components at their ideal operating temperatures. The air conditioning system is used to refrigerate the coolant going to the battery through a 'chiller'. As the coolant passes through the chiller, it's reduced to the temperature that the battery needs to operate effectively. Along with that, temperature sensors stationed around the vehicle let the cooling system know when it's time to charge into action.

The cooling system also works when the car is charging. That's good news for owners in warmer regions, since charge time is slowed in hot climates.

"Batteries can heat up when they're charging or being used, and it's made worse by ambient temperatures," said Fabricatore. "Controlling the temperature lets us deliver the best range and power for the customer, while improving the longevity of the battery."

Ford's aggressive electrification strategy includes the launch of five electric vehicles in North America by 2012 and Europe by 2013. The new Focus Electric – the company's first all-electric passenger car – is the zero-emissions, gasoline-free version of Ford's global Focus model.

Focus Electric will launch in late 2011 in 19 pilot markets. The liquid cooled battery system is another advantage the Focus Electric will have over other air-cooled all-electric vehicles, especially in warmer weather markets. The pilot presentation areas will include : Atlanta, Austin, Houston, Los Angeles, San Diego, Orlando, Fla., Phoenix and Tucson, Ariz., Raleigh-Durham, N.C. and Richmond, Va.

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Ford's New Technology Keeps EV Batteries Cool in the Heat - Autotrader