Blog by Denis Pasero
On 8th November I presented at the Institute of Mechanical Engineer’s conference ‘International EV Batteries 2022 : Cost-Effective Engineering for Hybrids and Electric Vehicles’. Held at Silverstone, the home of British motor racing and the British Grand Prix, it was an exciting (if sometimes a bit noisy) venue with racing cars going round the track next to the conference centre. Whilst we could marvel at the speed they went, most of the cars were internal combustion engine (ICE), reminding us all that the whole automotive industry needs to move to electrification and the importance of battery innovation in doing this.
There were many key takeaways from this event, most notably from Paul McNamara, Technical Director at Williams Advanced Engineering who was chairing and compering. For him, the customer’s view on electric vehicles has shifted from range anxiety (because batteries are now good enough to provide long range) to an anxiety about not charging fast enough and having enough accessible charging points. Most consumers are still concerned that if they go for a long journey they won’t find a charging point when they need one. There’s also the continuing safety concern and he stated that there are still 2 LIB related fires a week which are out of sight of the general public. Improving safety is key in EV battery development.
Pam Thomas, CEO at the Faraday Institution described how under the umbrella of the Faraday Battery Challenge, FI is currently opening a £211M funding pot for development, including for academia and SME. The Faraday Battery Challenge is now in its second phase with Wave 5 currently in process of awarding grants. Interesting conversations ensued about the role and activities from the Government to help out beyond early development stage. This was particularly interesting to me as last year we discussed this subject with battery experts Dr James Frith and Jacqui Murray in a talking heads video. At the EV Battery conference we also discussed the Government role in financing British Volt and fear of a supply chain largely dominated by China. The previous day there had been an announcement about Green Lithium, who refine lithium. Greg Borie, Commercial Director, described Green Lithium’s plan, including their first refinery on Teesside (a £600m investment) that could produce 50k tons of Li per year - enough for one million electric vehicles. Their longer term plan, in line with UK demand, is to build 15 refineries but that will require more investment if each one costs £½ Bn.
Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends, Advanced Propulsion Centre UK, reported on research done by APC, including their “Demand Report” which is available on the APC website for free. He reminded us that transport, whilst down from 27% last year, still represents 24% of GHG emissions - twice the contribution of domestic heating. 80% of battery demand in the UK is for automotive. To meet the UK EV demand for batteries in 2030, 98 GWH needs to be produced per year but only 39 is committed. In 2021, 4 GWh were needed but only 2 committed. Globally 3000 GWH will be needed. Lithium shortage was flagged, with today’s production needed to increase 8-fold by 2030, that’s 700k tons per year in the UK.
China is the largest producer of Li but will keep 85% of it for their own production. To alleviate competition not only for lithium but also all other minerals needed in battery manufacturing, Greg Borie suggested that a type of collaborative alliance would be beneficial. In their report APC suggest 5 scenarios to tackle supply chain issues:
- Investment in supply chain
- Recycling of lithium ion
- Making smaller (modular) battery packs
- More charging posts
- Using alternative chemistries
Not all scenarios have the same impact, for example recycling Li is long term since the end of life of current electric vehicles won’t be recycled before the 2030s.
Other presentations included one from Fergal Harrington-Beatty, Head of Electric Vehicles at AMTE Power who presented AMTE’s latest Na-cell and Alex Groombridge, CTO & Co-Founder of Echion Technologies presented their XNO® Niobium oxide anode chemistry with an impressive >10k cycles.
In the afternoon session (by which time the racing drivers had stopped for an extended lunch break) I presented Building the Solid State Battery Factory. I reported on the collaborative project SOLSTICE with Italian automation specialist Comau - a feasibility study on the equipment, resources and cost required to build a mid-scale SSB manufacturing line. Prior to the event I took part in a Q&A with IMechE, discussing my role at Ilika, challenges facing the industry and views regarding new technologies. Post event, further details of our feasibility study can be found on our blog 50 MWh Solid State Cell Pilot Plant – A Feasibility Study by Comau and Ilika.
My presentation followed a very instructive talk from Parmjeet Plahe, Senior Manager, High Voltage Battery Design at Jaguar Land Rover who described the challenges in designing a battery platform, with multi-dimensional, sometime conflicting specifications demands, either electrical, thermal, control, cost or environmental. JLR are taking sustainability and ESG seriously, looking to decrease their CO2 footprint from supply chain, production (direct and purchased), distribution, usage and end of life.
Overall it was an enlightening and well attended event with spotless organisation. I hope to present there again next year and would recommend attending if possible. In the meantime we’ve got more events we’ll be speaking at and details can be found on our Events page.