Ford Produces Li-ion Battery-Powered e-Ka

November 28, 2000 by Jeff Shepard

Ford Motor Co. (Dearborn, MI) has produced the prototype electric Ka small car, called the e-Ka, powered by a new generation of lithium-ion batteries. Developed at Ford's Research Centre in Aachen, Germany, the e-Ka is intended to demonstrate the capabilities of the new dedicated soft lithium-ion water-cooled battery technology. Ford claims that it is the first manufacturer to produce an electric vehicle (EV) using this type of battery propulsion.

The e-Ka has the performance of a gasoline-powered car and a range of over 90 miles. Ford claims that it retains the zero-emissions benefits of EVs while extending their conventional limits. The e-Ka's body has been lightened by just under 100 pounds in order to optimize the performance of its electric powertrain. The lithium-ion battery pack, which weighs 617 pounds, is about seventy percent lighter than an equivalent pack using standard lead acid technology. As a result, the e-Ka can sprint to over 60 miles per hour in 12.7 seconds and can reach a maximum speed of just over 80 miles per hour. If a constant speed of 50 miles per hour could be maintained, the car would travel more than 120 miles before needing a recharge.

A particular advantage of the e-Ka's lithium-ion battery technology is the fact that it is tolerant of high electric current when recharging. It can go from zero to full charge in just six hours and is immune to the “memory effect," retaining its full charging capacity regardless of usage.

The Ford e-Ka battery pack consists of a total of 180 cells. These are divided into three separate battery troughs. One trough is located in the engine compartment, and two others directly behind and in front of the rear axle. The flow of electricity from the battery unit is automatically cut off if the system is turned off. In addition, the e-Ka is equipped with crash sensors, which trigger a shut-down in the event of an accident.

Other features of the e-Ka include two independent coolant systems that prevent over-heating. One is for the drive system and the other is dedicated to the lithium-ion battery pack. All three battery troughs in the system are completely sealed.