Electric motors: is the UK placing its bets wisely?

20 May 2024

Ample opportunities await UK businesses prepared to bet on shifting attitudes towards e-motor design and manufacture, says new APC report

With the European market for electric motors (e-motor) projected to expand to more than £27 billion over the next decade, a threefold increase, there exists an opportunity for the UK supply chain to establish itself as a recognised leader in motor design and production.

That is according to the latest insight report from the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC), titled “e-Motors Value Chain”.

While much of the automotive industry considers reducing reliance on Rare Earth Element (REEs) in motors, focusing existing expertise on other types of motors – such as induction-based and Electrically Excited Synchronous Motors (EESM) – could pay dividends for forward-thinkers in the space.

The APC’s four key recommendations to realise the value-adds across the UK’s supply chain are:

  • Continue building scale
  • Invest in material supply chains, specifically REEs, E-steel and copper
  • Explore new markets, beyond automotive, identifying emerging sectors and international opportunities
  • Cross-sector collaboration to aggregate demand and leverage investment

 Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends, APC said:

“Despite supply chain challenges, the UK boasts a thriving ecosystem which is poised to make the most of a shift in attitudes and focus in the automotive sector.

In addition to the £27 billion European market forecast increase, global demand for e-motors for cars and vans will more than treble in the next ten years, including heavy-duty demand, which will see a fourfold increase in motor demand.

There also exists an opportunity to collaborate in the material supply chain. Innovators in the automotive ecosystem connecting with those in other sectors, namely aeronautical, marine, rail, and renewables would provide avenues for valuable knowledge sharing. Particularly with regards to e-steel.”

Chris Jones, Strategic Trends Manager, APC, lead author of the report commented:

“A resilient material supply chain for e-steel and copper is critical for the e-motor industry. While neodymium-based magnet technology dominates the market there is innovation in alternative materials to reduce dependence on the rare earth supply chain, materials such as iron ferrite and iron nitride show promise.

There is also a growing trend of using magnet free motors. This would allow UK manufacturers to reduce the costs associated with motor construction, diversify revenue streams, and establish a robust supply chain. Importantly, it could also lower the carbon impact of producing this vital material, which currently takes an indirect journey across Europe before eventually reaching our shores.”

Throughout its history, the APC has been instrumental in helping to boost the UK’s capabilities in this arena, with the Ford Halewood project, E-motif project, and EPIC project being just some of the more recent success stories.

You can obtain the full range of insights revealed in the report. In addition, you can watch an exclusive interview with Jones, who takes a further in-depth look at the challenges and solutions touched upon within the report.

This latest release from the APC is just one in an ongoing series of regular industry insight reports from the APC’s Technology Trends team, all of which are available for free on the website.