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The UK needs to speed up Gigafactory’s development to save the automotive industry

Current plans for Gigafactories in the UK point to a shortage of more than 95GWh in battery production by 2040, a report warns.

The UK needs to speed up the creation of giga factories and the development of new battery technologies, otherwise there is a risk of domestic car production being lost altogether, according to a report published today by sustainable manufacturing consultancy HSSMI.

Most of the world’s battery production – about 70 percent – currently takes place in Asia, thanks to easy access to natural resources; government-driven support for high-volume production and rising local demand for electric vehicles.

HSSMI’s report warns that the UK – as well as Europe and the US – are at risk of falling behind by other countries fast moving towards electrification. “Electrification is increasing the demand for battery cells and batteries that power electric vehicles,” said Axel Bindel, HSSMI’s executive director.

“The UK in particular is at a crucial time. 140GWh of battery cell capacity will be needed by 2040; equal to five Gigafactories. “Currently, however, there is only 3 GWh of production in the UK and an additional 45 GWh is planned by 2030, leaving a large gap – more than 95 GWh – between the speed at which the battery factory will be set up, the schedule and the forecast.

ask.” The UK faces major challenges, the report says, including a lack of skilled cell manufacturing process technicians and critical raw material availability, as well as high manufacturing costs.

It adds that investing in more battery factories and bringing them as close to automotive production as possible – reducing supply chain challenges – can alleviate many of these problems, while at the same time recognizing that the government is starting to make money available to the industry , which may require more collaboration. to lead the country to success

“Normally it can take up to five years for a giga factory to be fully operational from the first idea. The demand for cell production is expected to increase significantly over the next four to five years.

Our expertise in cell design, manufacturing and commercialization can dramatically accelerate this, ”said Robin Foster, head of battery solutions at HSSMI. “We can’t just focus on creating Gigafactory without being strategic about new technologies,” added Foster.

“At the same time, the UK needs to exploit and commercialize the wealth of new locally developed battery technology. The typical time for new technology to become commercially ready can be 10 years from lab to large-scale production.

Involvement with a scale-up specialist can provide early feedback on commercial viability, disrupting the traditional linear development program and accelerating time-to-market.

The report outlines five key steps for the UK industry to accelerate the creation of Gigafactory:

  1. Make the most of what already exists: By developing products that fit into existing production facilities or use off-the-shelf machines, new cell technology can be more easily adopted. Where new processes are created, a further development program is needed for the production machines, potentially delaying commercialization.
  2. Know Your Target Market: The design of a new battery should address all of the application’s needs. While development may focus on one parameter, e.g. high capacity chemistry, application requirements for other aspects (cell size, electrode specification) can lead to late design changes, additional costs due to rehabilitation trials, modification or replacement of equipment.
  3. Understand the costs involved: Materials used in lithium ion cells are expensive, so high process yields are critical. Taking steps towards optimized production early in product development is key to minimizing lab-to-production timescales and reducing the cost of waste material during scale-up activities.
  4. Conduct feasibility studies early: Feasibility studies are important to understand Gigafactory specifics, facility requirements (size, utilities, labor), and how the product selected for manufacturing affects them. Unique cell design features that increase production time or complexity can lead to unprofitable products. Early studies facilitate parallel product development for performance and manufacturing to ensure commercial viability.
  5. Collaborate with scale-up specialists: Such specialists can help tackle many challenges quickly, saving time and money by leveraging existing supplier relationships, equipment knowledge, facility design, and experience scaling up.

Trends are already emerging where automotive OEMs partner with cell manufacturers and enter into joint ventures to secure battery cell supply. By staying close to cell manufacturers, automotive OEMs can eliminate supply chain risks, such as concerns about dangerous goods transportation and longevity, and leverage the opportunity to co-develop battery cells, packs and EVs.

HSSMI believes it is imperative for the UK to attract and develop cell manufacturing capacity to reduce the temptation for domestic automotive OEMs to look elsewhere. David Stewart, HSSMI Technical Director added:

“Currently, the Envision AESC facility in Sunderland is the only UK facility manufacturing scale (2-3GWh) lithium ion cells. AMTE Power and BritishVolt have both announced plans for Gigafactories in the UK, which will help deliver local products to the UK automotive sector.

Nonetheless, further investment in the UK automotive industry is crucial as it has been plunging since 2013 and in 2018 inward investment was only £ 0.59 billion.

“Government-aided agencies such as the Advanced Propulsion Center and the Faraday Institution are continuously working to accelerate battery technology by promoting and catalyzing innovation and collaboration among manufacturers, technology providers, automotive OEMs, research organizations and academics, through a variety of funding options.

” In related news today, Forbes reported that Gigafactory pioneer Tesla saw its stock plummet again in response to news coming out of China that electric car sales fell in April.

According to Global Times, a government-affiliated news outlet quoting data from the China Passenger Car Association, Tesla sales fell 27 percent to 25,845 new vehicles – a drop of nearly 10,000 units since March.

Separately, Reuters reported that the company has decided not to purchase any land adjacent to the landShanghai Gigafactory factory to create a new facility dedicated to building Tesla Model 3 cars forexports to, among others, the US, which imposes a tariff of 25 percent on all vehicles produced in China.

Tesla has recently been struggling with PR issues in China and has been criticized as “arrogant” about handling a well-publicized customer complaint about a braking problem with its vehicle.

Chinese government officials also expressed concern that cameras on Tesla vehicles pose a security risk, now banning all Tesla cars from Chinese military facilities.

Elon Musk has assured Chinese officials that the cameras will not be triggered outside of North America to randomly collect data.