Ford Motor Co. taps Johnson Controls-Saft Advanced Power Solutions LLC as the battery supplier for its first commercial plug-in hybrid electric vehicle, scheduled to hit dealerships in 2012.

JCS will supply the complete lithium-ion battery system for Ford’s PHEV program, but it has not been named the supplier for the auto maker’s full-electric vehicle based on the Focus C-car platform due in 2011, spokeswoman Jennifer Moore says.

The battery-electric vehicle, or BEV as Ford dubs it, is being developed in collaboration with Magna International Inc.

The announcement of a battery supplier for Ford’s PHEV program is an important step in the auto maker’s vehicle-electrification strategy, says Nancy Gioia, Ford’s director of hybrid-vehicle programs.

“The battery is the critical piece of electrifying vehicles,” Gioia says in a statement. “Johnson Controls-Saft is one of the leaders focused on creating lithium-ion batteries for an affordable new generation of vehicles.”

The Li-ion battery system JCS is designing and manufacturing for Ford includes cells, mechanical, electrical, electronic and thermal components.

The cells initially will be made at the supplier’s production facility in Nersac, France, but the system, itself, will be manufactured at an undisclosed location in the U.S. The 5-year supply agreement includes delivery in 2012, with a target of 5,000 units annually, Ford says.

“As U.S. vehicle manufacturers commercialize their hybrid programs, the industry will be best served with a qualified and robust domestic supply base,” Alex Molinaroli, president of Johnson Controls Power Solutions, says in a statement. “Developing and manufacturing these components here also represents a significant opportunity to reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources.”

Meanwhile, Ford forges a partnership with the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) and seven electric-utility providers to conduct real-world testing with prototype Escape PHEVs.

The utility partners include:

  • New York Power Authority.
  • Consolidated Edison of New York.
  • American Electric Power of Columbus, OH.
  • Alabama Power of Birmingham, AL, and its parent, Atlanta-based Southern Co.
  • Progress Energy of Raleigh, NC.
  • DTE Energy of Detroit.
  • National Grid of Waltham, MA.
  • New York State Energy and Research Development Authority.

EPRI, which is providing financial and logistical support for the studies, formed the collaboration of utilities for the program. Ford and EPRI entered into a 3-year agreement in March to study regional differences and the impact on the electrical grid, as well as the vehicles.

“The data mined from these field tests will provide crucial information that will help us continue to make advances in battery technology, vehicle systems and customer usage,” Arshad Mansoor, EPRI vice president of power delivery and markets, says in a statement.

“This technical information will lead to PHEV standards that will ultimately help auto makers and utilities develop an efficient, convenient infrastructure and a seamless interface between the road and the power grid.”

bpope@wardsauto.com