Ford explores new ways to make natural gas engines and batteries

The automotive powerhouse has teamed up with Lake Superior State University in Michigan to incubate a new method to manufacture natural gas efficient engines and battery components.

The new research will explore a process that will allow chips to be separated out from other materials, including natural gas and coal. The team will then use the chips to manufacture fuel efficient catalytic converters and advanced composite materials for automobiles.

In essence, a gas burning engine can expand the chip by a certain percentage or convert the fuel into a battery like a hydrogen filling station. “For now, the biggest issue in automotive is producing complex electronic parts in low-cost, high-quality packages,” says Fabian von Schalck, president of the high tech center at Lake Superior State University. “This work will advance some of the methods currently used to minimize those costs and achieve higher performance.”

In the automotive industry there is much research and development to be done on how to adapt natural gas engines to the wide range of different driving applications. Advances in this field are leading to product breakthroughs that will further advance hybrid and fully electric vehicles.

“We have already seen many automakers develop alternative propulsion technologies based on both technology and feasibility to mitigate the high cost and increasing regulatory burden associated with current internal combustion engine, or ICE, technology,” explains Michael Litterman, Ford Fuel Cell Manufacturing Project manager, South Plainfield, New Jersey. “The study will specifically explore the feasibility of using natural gas resources in place of petroleum for constructing production facilities and significant components.”

The team will have access to the Ford EcoBoost Engine Manufacturing Center in Dearborn, Michigan to consider techniques that utilize fuel and oxidizing materials that are abundant in Michigan’s coal industry. The new research is an example of Ford’s close work with its partners to advance work.

Ford will invest up to $800,000 to support research that will not only establish this process, but conduct program prototypes that will use advanced clean technology materials to produce small clusters of natural gas-powered vehicles. The researchers will also produce an initial portion of these small natural gas-powered cars to test their feasibility to meet passenger safety and emissions standards in the U.S. and Canada.

Along with Lake Superior State University, the research will be aided by the state of Michigan through the Michigan State Transportation Research Institute’s Integrative Biotechnology Center.

“The work focused on natural gas has great potential and will benefit the U.S. economy and the environment,” says Andy Kent, Clean Cars Program manager at the Michigan State Transportation Research Institute. “The team will gain expertise in production and quality management to guide commercial development.”

Learn more about Ford’s clean cars.

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