It's an $8 million partnership between the University of Michigan and Ford and ultimately, the research it produces may develop batteries for electric vehicles that will make them more efficient and affordable.

That's the plan. According to the Detroit Free Press, Ford is the only automaker partnering in the lab housed at the U-M Energy Institute. While the ribbon cutting was Tuesday, the lab should be equipped and running by this time next year. It will be used for prototyping, testing and analyzing batteries and the materials that go into them.

Ford contributed $2.1 million, augmenting $5 million from the Michigan Economic Development Corp. and about $900,000 from the U-M College of Engineering.

Materials scientists and engineers, as well as suppliers and manufacturers, can work together to find breakthroughs in battery development.

“There is nothing like it in the industry,” said Anand Sankaran, Ford chief engineer for energy storage and hybrid systems.

Ted Miller, who manages Ford’s battery research, said the automaker has battery labs that test and validate production-ready batteries, “but nothing this far upstream. This is sorely needed.”

Alisa Priddle reports that the lab also will also help suppliers of cells and other materials better understand the needs of the auto industry before they make investments.

The lab will provide training for the next generation of battery engineers.

“This kind of collaboration is essential to addressing complex challenges like sustainable energy and efficient transportation,” said U-M President Mary Sue Coleman.

Additionally, the new lab will be available for any firm. Students will have access to state-of-the-art equipment and experts.

The Energy Institute envisions the new facility as a safe zone for non-competitive collaboration. Ford already has a research alliance with U-M to protect intellectual property so researchers can explore some of the automaker’s proprietary work.

Very encouraging, isn't it?