DETROIT -- Ricardo Inc., one of the auto industrys oldest engineering firms, has opened a $2 million battery technology center that will help automakers develop hybrid and electric powertrains for future vehicles.
Ricardos Battery Systems Development Center in suburban Detroit operates three test cells that are capable of testing nickel-metal hydride, lithium ion and other types of batteries. The operation employs 32 battery engineers.
Ricardo doesnt manufacture battery cells. Engineers will take cells made by other companies and put them into modules and then make the modules into packs by adding electronic controls and heating and cooling systems. The packs will then be tested for automakers.
The company already has at least two contracts with battery companies, said Karina Morley, Ricardos global vice president of controls and electronics.
She would not say which batteries are the best on the market now. But industry leaders are the Johnson Controls-Saft joint venture, which has scored major contracts with BMW, Mercedes-Benz and others, as well as Compact Power Inc., a unit of South Koreas LG Chem Ltd. Compact Power won the contract to supply the 2011 Chevrolet Volt.
There are more than 50 cell companies out there trying to be the winner, Morley said.
Some of Ricardos test equipment can be programmed to simulate a battery packs integration into the vehicle.
The Michigan Economic Growth Authority approved a state tax credit valued at $991,000 over 10 years to win the companys investment over a competing site in Illinois.
Ricardo is a unit of English engineering and technical support company Ricardo PLC, which posted fiscal 2008 total sales of $394 million. The companys history dates back to 1905.