Ford unveils temperature control system

Engineers at Ford have revealed details about the liquid heating and cooling system that will be used to regulate the temperature of the lithium-ion batteries in its Ford Focus Electric, which debuts in the US late next year and in Europe in 2012.

While air-cooling methods work well for many of today’s smaller car battery systems, the larger, more complex lithium-ion battery technology powering Ford’s all-electric vehicles calls for a more aggressive thermal management system.

As such, the active liquid system will heat or chill a coolant before pumping it through the battery cooling system to regulate temperature throughout the system.

On hot days, chilled water will absorb heat from the batteries, dispersing it through a radiator before pumping it through the chiller again. On cold days, heated water will warm the batteries, gradually bringing the system’s temperature to a level that allows it to efficiently accept charge and provide enough power to meet the performance needs of the vehicle.

The liquid cooling system will also play a role in charging the vehicle. When the all-electric 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.

The Focus Electric is one of five electrified vehicles Ford will release over the next three years. In addition to the Focus Electric, 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.

The Focus Electric will be built at Ford’s retooled Michigan Assembly Plant. It will have an expected range of up to 100 miles.

Car manufacturers are starting to capitalise on the design freedom offered by low-carbon electric vehicles. Click here to read more.