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2012 Ford Focus Sedan

Ford Transit Connect Electric
Ford gives out some details on the Focus Electric's battery system

Ford is doing its best to stay in the headlines when it comes to the latest in tech. Earlier this week, we brought you news of Ford's efforts to deliver SYNC firmware to new vehicles over Wi-Fi instead of using costly custom-designed hardware.

Today, Ford is spilling the beans on the electric variant of the next generation Ford Focus. Ford is already moving the Focus nameplate up a few rungs from a bargain basement special that is popular with fleet customers to a premium compact, so an electric variant isn't too surprising.

The new Focus Electric will use an advanced lithium-ion battery pack that is [active] liquid cooled to help keep the cells at the perfect operating temperature -- that means cooling the batteries in the hot of summer and heating them in the cold of winter. If you recall, Tesla's CEO called out Nissan for using "primitive" air-cooling on the battery pack used in the Leaf EV. Tesla won't be able to make the same claims against Ford.

“Extreme temperatures impact a battery’s life and performance, making it crucial to have an effective cooling and heating system to regulate temperature for these demanding applications,” said Anand Sankaran, Ford's executive technical leader for Energy Storage and HV Systems.

The active liquid cooling system will also be used to "precondition" the battery pack when charging. The system will automatically bring the batteries to the proper temperature before the charging process begins. If the batteries are already at their optimum temperature, the charging process starts right away.

Ford also announced that the driving range for the Focus Electric will be an impressive 100 miles. The 100-mile figure is identical to that of the Nissan Leaf, but the Focus Electric may have the upper hand in extreme temperatures due to the active cooling system. 

Production of the Focus Electric will begin next year at Ford's Michigan Assembly Plant and the vehicle will be available to the public in late 2011. It should be interesting to see how Ford will price the Focus Electric given the more expensive cooling system that it's decided to strap into the vehicle. Nissan's Leaf EV starts at $32,780 before a $7,500 federal tax credit. On the other hand, Chevrolet's Volt will start at $41,000 before the tax credit. We speculate that the Focus Electric will come in somewhere between those two figures.

The Focus Electric isn't the only all-electric vehicle coming out of Ford -- the Transit Connect Electric commercial van will be available later this year. That vehicle has a driving range of 80 miles.

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RE: How can this make sense
By SandmanWN on 9/3/2010 10:29:16 AM , Rating: 4
95 is not outside the operating range of the batteries. I have no idea what you are talking about with battery sweat. It would take a serious temperature change from frozen to sweltering for that to occur and if that did happen to the degree you mention the battery used to start your gas powered car would also be effected.

Whats the point of the active cooling system in every gas burning car if it only kicks in when the car is being used... Sounds like a ridiculous question unless you live in a place where the baseline temperature exceeds the operating range of the vehicle, which if I remember correctly is over 150 degrees.

RE: How can this make sense
By Spuke on 9/3/2010 11:56:02 AM , Rating: 2
baseline temperature exceeds the operating range of the vehicle, which if I remember correctly is over 150 degrees.
Care to post a link?

RE: How can this make sense
By SandmanWN on 9/3/2010 2:25:12 PM , Rating: 2
Nope, was doing it from memory. Its in another DT article about the operating temperature of another EV. Go search for yourself.

RE: How can this make sense
By Spuke on 9/3/2010 5:25:00 PM , Rating: 2
Go search for yourself.
You could have left that out. I really wanted to know where you got that from. Besides, there soooo much BS that gets posted here, I believe nothing so I ask.

RE: How can this make sense
By Hoser McMoose on 9/4/2010 11:33:31 AM , Rating: 2
I can't speak so much about the batteries in vehicles, but I've done a bit of work with Li-Ion batteries for cell phones and the basic chemistry of it all is the same.

For Li-Ion batteries a typical maximum operating value is at least 60C (140F). Some Li-Ion batteries are rated for higher temperatures. Also you really don't lose much of anything in terms of the battery capacity at high temperatures, though if you need cooling (either for the batteries or for the interior of the car itself) it will be a bigger drain.

Cold temperatures are a bigger problem. Li-Ion batteries start losing efficiency below about 20C and when temperatures drop below 0C their effectiveness drops off pretty badly. At -10C you only get about 70% of the life as compared to 25C+ temperatures and even less if what you're powering has a low-voltage cut-off as the voltage at which that power provided is lower (at 25C+ the voltage stays pretty constant until the battery is nearly dead, at -10C battery voltage is much more of a slope). Below -20C (-4F) Li-Ion batteries are basically worthless.

Aside: Keep in mind that internal combustion engines also lose efficiency pretty badly when temperatures drop below -10C and diesels in particular are extremely problematic below -20C. At the very least they need additives to the fuel to prevent gelling and glow plugs to allow for combustion. Plus you'll need a heavy coat and gloves to drive in one because it takes a LONG time before you're going to get any heat out of the heating system.

The biggest temperature limitation with Li-Ion batteries, and what seems to be the Ford's focus here (no pun intended, honest!) is battery charging . Here you are limited to a much smaller temperature window than actually using the batteries. Typically you can only charge a Li-Ion battery when they are above 0C and below 35 or 40C.

From my reading of this article it seems like this active heating/cooling system is ONLY for charging, so you won't actually be draining the battery at all but rather using electricity while plugged in. Essentially this will result in a drop in the charging efficiency; if you need 10kWh to get a full charge of the batteries you'll need to put in 11 or 12kWh (keeping in mind that Li-Ion batteries charge at better than 95% efficiency under ideal circumstances and 1kWh buys you a *LOT* of heating, though not as much cooling).

If you really want a link for any of this you can try something like:

Basic specs for a bog-standing Li-Ion battery. There are slight variations between makes and types but the basics are all the same.

RE: How can this make sense
By Dr of crap on 9/3/10, Rating: 0
RE: How can this make sense
By SandmanWN on 9/3/2010 2:34:24 PM , Rating: 4
What attack? And really, both of your posts were less than polite questioning.

Sweating batteries was a metaphor? ...New one for me... Just what is the metaphor for sweating batteries anyway?

95 may be hot for a person but that doesn't translate to the operating temperature of batteries. Pick up just about any battery and the operating temp will be posted as most likely between 140 and 160F.

Why active cooling? Well that's obvious... Longevity of the battery and optimal performance. You are building a consumer product that is designed to last a decade or more with a larger than average battery pack that generates heat. Why else...

RE: How can this make sense
By Alexvrb on 9/3/2010 10:48:31 PM , Rating: 2
Just sitting there, not moving, and not plugged in? I imagine it won't use any thermal management, because it doesn't need to. Ambient temp isn't a problem for storage. Only during charging and powering the vehicle should it need to cool or heat the batteries above or below ambient temps - and in both cases it isn't an issue.

When you're charging, you don't need to worry about a little extra power consumption, if it helps condition your batteries for better capacity and longevity. When you're driving around, the power consumed to keep the battery within a specified temperature range is going to be well worth it, and you'll get better life and range. So... seems like win-win.

Personally though, with the long charge times of a pure EV, I'd rather have an E-REV similar to the Volt. Less battery-only travel, but your travel range is limited only by your ability to purchase gasoline. Yeah, I don't always drive vast distances. But lacking the ability to do so means the EV is an around-town car only. No visiting family out of your range with it.

"Yeah well I was gonna show you my new electric car but... it couldn't make the trip without an overnight stop."

RE: How can this make sense
By Alexvrb on 9/3/2010 10:51:11 PM , Rating: 2
Man that would also make for a hilarious phone call for a tow truck.
"My car is out of juice."
"You ran out of gas? We'll bring a couple of gallons and get you back on the road-"
"No, I mean it's a damn electric car and I thought I could make it! Just come tow me to my house already..."

RE: How can this make sense
By Hoser McMoose on 9/4/2010 11:42:49 AM , Rating: 2
Obvoiusly 95 would be in the range where cooling takes affect

I mentioned it in my excessively wordy post above, but to state it more clearly: 35C (95F) is no problem at all for Li-Ion batteries.

The cooling system exists because on a day when it is 35C outside it might be 50C (122F) inside a garage. No problem at all for starting the car and going driving (no cooling need and no loss in battery performance), but you can't charge the batteries at that temp. If you're charging overnight when temperatures are lower this becomes a non-issue.

The real reason this exists is on the cold temperature end of things.

"I mean, if you wanna break down someone's door, why don't you start with AT&T, for God sakes? They make your amazing phone unusable as a phone!" -- Jon Stewart on Apple and the iPhone

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