UK in strong position to lead future battery cell innovation for the automotive sector

    • Automotive sector will dominate future battery demand, driving battery innovation
    • Three broad clusters of batteries emerging in the global automotive industry
    • Eight promising cell innovations are close to market, offering significant global opportunity
    • UK has strategic advantage in development of silicon dominant anodes and sodium ion batteries
    • UK needs to attract cathode and anode manufacturers to support innovation ecosystem and anchor supply chains

04 October 2022 An in-depth insight report investigating the most promising battery cell innovations has been released by the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC). The report, ‘2025 and beyond: Promising battery cell innovations for the UK automotive sector’, provides a qualitative assessment of the UK’s existing capability in battery developments that have the highest potential of being commercialised globally in the next 3+ years for the automotive sector.

Dr Chris Jones, Strategic Trends Manager at the APC, explained: “A range of battery innovations are being explored all around the world and it is expected that by 2030, the automotive industry will account for more than 80 per cent of battery demand. Here at the APC, we are always looking to the future so that we can anchor R&D in the UK as early as possible and attract the relevant supply chains to maximise the opportunities we foresee for the automotive industry.”

From the report’s findings, it is clear that R&D will continue to play a critical role over the next three to five years with significant investment still needed to support the required technology and manufacturing readiness levels for the automotive market. Eight emerging technologies are identified in the report as the most promising developments within the automotive sector, based on an assessment of commercial opportunity and readiness for these battery cell innovations:

    • silicon dominant anodes
    • manganese rich cathodes
    • industry scale battery materials recycling
    • solid state electrolytes
    • lithium metal anode
    • dry electrode manufacturing
    • lithiation techniques
    • sodium ion

Chris continues: “A portfolio approach is still very much at the heart of current and future battery technology, but our report recommends that the UK should focus on leveraging its strategic advantage in sodium ion and silicon dominant anodes. In addition, battery materials recycling, solid state electrolytes and manganese rich cathodes are worth pursuing due to their high market potential and emerging UK capability.

“However, a key piece of the puzzle is missing as there are currently no cathode or anode active material producers manufacturing in the UK. The UK needs to attract leading material suppliers to strengthen the ecosystem around new electrode concepts and recycling.”

Importantly, the report notes the wide range of battery technologies with varying cost and performance requirements that are suited to different automotive applications. For example, the battery requirements for volume passenger cars such as the Nissan Leaf are different when compared to the increased energy density needed for high-performance sports cars like those manufactured by Bentley.

Among the myriad of automotive battery technologies, the APC believes passenger car OEMs and their supply chains are gravitating towards three categories of batteries to suit their future electric vehicle portfolios:

    • entry level, low cost
    • high volume performance
    • high performance, specialist applications

These clusters are more apparent when looking at the respective cell cost and energy density expectations for each category. Despite industry coalescing around these three battery segments, significant divergence occurs in chemistry and material choices.

Notably the APC’s report also identifies four key cross-cutting innovation themes that will complement all chemistry and material innovations. These are: life cycle analysis, manufacturing advancements, safety improvements, and supply chain resilience.

Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends at the APC, summarises:

“Batteries are a big part of the net zero journey for the automotive sector. We have a strong UK R&D capability and there is some exceptional innovation happening within battery cell technology. So, the time is right to focus on growing our capability quickly, attracting external investment into our R&D and manufacturing, to anchor the supply chain in the UK.  By leveraging the collaboration between industry and academia, we will commercialise these next generation battery technologies. This will also support the UK’s efforts in building a bank of highly skilled talent for the sector.”

The report was compiled with support from the Rho Motion, Faraday Institution, Faraday Battery Challenge and UKBIC.

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