Steadily moving towards electrification and sustainability in the automotive industry

20 March, 2024

Ford Spain, the Valencian factory that the multinational Ford Motor Company owns in Almussafes, has been leading the INPROBAT project (Research into new production processes to reduce the cost of batteries and their environmental impact) for the last three years, subsidised through the Science and Innovation Missions schedule of the Centre for Technological Development and Innovation (CDTI).

This research project lasted 38 months and had a total budget of more than €5.8 million. CDTI support in the form of a grant accounted for 70% of the budget and has enabled progress to be made in the knowledge of battery manufacturing processes from the point of view of eco-design, for sustainable assembly and disassembly.

The project has been carried out in consortium with major companies in the sector such as Cegasa, Mondragon Assembly, Itera and TSE. These companies have relied on the most cutting-edge research organisations and technology centres in various technologies related to the project, located mainly in two technology centres, the Valencian Community and the Basque Country.

These organisations are: Technological Institute of Energy (ITE), Technological Institute of Metalworking, Furniture, Wood, Packaging and Related Industries (AIDIMME), Ikerlan, Lortek, Tekniker, Eurecat, Oviedo University Foundation and Inatec Foundation.

Power, Cost and Recyclability

Within the framework of this project, work has been carried out on the complete design of the manufacturing process of a prototype battery for electric vehicles (PHEV) that improves the energy densities, costs and recyclability of the designs currently used in vehicles such as the brand’s own Kuga PHEV (Plug-in Hybrid).

The proliferation of hybrid and electric vehicles in recent years, as well as market trends and car company strategies, suggests that the number of batteries from vehicles is going to be one of the major challenge for the society in the next decade.

The recyclability of components and improving the reusability of these components for a second life are emerging as the challenges that companies in the sector must urgently address as part of their social responsibility. All of this without losing sight of the business objectives of improving battery capacity (and therefore autonomy), and reducing the cost of manufacturing, which is ultimately reflected in the end customer.

Ford has taken on its role in this challenge from Valencia through the INPROBAT project, seeking strategies, technologies and materials that reduce the environmental impact of batteries and being a catalyst for SMEs such as TSE or ITERA to find new market opportunities and sustainable products, and large companies such as CEGASA and MONDRAGON ASSEMBLY to exponentially increase their experience in the manufacture of cells and modules for a sustainable automotive industry.

Results achieved

The objective has been achieved, exceeding initial expectations. To this end, efforts have been focused on different lines of research, such as:

  • Researching, designing and testing new materials and composite materials for the manufacture of the different parts that make up the battery pack.
  • Researching, designing and validating new optimised manufacturing processes for the different components and new disassembly processes, seeking simplicity, cost savings and maximising the quality of the final product.
  • Research on the methodological procedure for the characterisation, analysis and validation of the measurables associated with the project, to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the data.
  • Research on recycling and reuse technologies in second life, once the automotive life cycle is over.

As a result of these lines of research, it has been possible to design a novel manufacturing process for a battery pack with a substantially lower weight than the reference one, and whose eco-design has allowed improving its power, reducing manufacturing costs and improving the recyclability of the product. It has also been possible to design and validate the safe disassembly process to facilitate its recyclability.

These improvement proposals must now be validated in an industrial manufacturing environment to assess their scalability and possible industrialisation.

In the context of the automotive sector in Spain, moving towards electrification, this project seeks to generate a solid and cutting-edge knowledge base on plug-in hybrid vehicle technologies.

Both the manufacturing plant and the companies and technology centers participating in the project have substantially improved their competencies and know-how to face the coming changes with guarantees and improve their leadership position in this regard.

Consortium Partners:

Collaborating Research Organizations and Technological Centers:

The news, published by Ford Spain, is taken from its website.

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