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Professor David Greenwood on UK Gigafactory announcement from TATA Sons/JLR

Reactive statement from Professor David Greenwood, CEO of the High Value Manufacturing Catapult and Director of Industrial Engagement at WMG at the University of Warwick

Picture of Professor David Greenwood“This is fantastic news and secures the future of our UK auto industry which would otherwise have been lost by 2035. Furthermore, this secures the supply chain meaning we’ve kept those jobs for everyone across the country.

“This announcement means that the UK is now above “critical mass” for supply chain companies and therefore sets the UK up to be an attractive place for businesses in the supply chain to invest to supply upstream and downstream materials needed for electric vehicle production. As one of the UK’s biggest academic institutions working in the area of battery and electric vehicle innovation, this is great news for all 250 of our researchers – we will now see the results of our work used in UK based industries and benefiting UK taxpayers rather than being exploited by competitors abroad.
“This is the culmination six years work here at Warwick Manufacturing Group - we helped the UK government set up the Faraday Battery Challenge which was a key part of the then Government’s industrial strategy. That investment has now borne fruit. Clearly, we now need to define our future vision and strategy as the global industrial landscape evolves at breakneck speed.

“This means the Prime Minister has realised he must provide sufficient investment to ensure the country is a competitive runner in the global race to dominate the markets created by the massive green transition needed to avert climate catastrophe.”

Battery recycling
Researchers at the University of Warwick estimate that by 2040 339,000 tonnes of batteries are expected to reach the end of their life in the UK alone.
Prof David Greenwood adds: “While we are busy building all these electric cars, we also need to think about what happens at the end of their useful life. Batteries contain significant quantities of materials which are costly to extract and refine and which could be hazardous to the environment if improperly disposed of. Investment is needed to create suitable recycling facilities in the UK within the next few years, and beyond that further research is needed to allow economic recovery of much greater proportions of the battery material. In doing so we will protect the environment, secure valuable raw materials, and reduce the cost of transport.”

Gigafactory FAQs
What is a gigafactory?
A gigafactory is a large factory that produces large numbers of batteries for electric vehicles. Tesla has pioneered the concept in the US, with six factories so far to produce batteries for their cars.

Why do we need one?

In order to a compete internationally and help preserve the UK automotive industry battery production needs to be scaled up rapidly across both the UK and Europe. This situation is exacerbated by tariffs due to be imposed across the UK and EU unless a certain proportion of a car is produced in one of those jurisdictions.
As an EV battery makes up around half of a vehicle’s weight it is crucial the UK vastly scales up battery production. Gigafactories are the most efficient way to do this.

How are electric car batteries made?
EV batteries come in lots of different shapes and sizes but are all made up of many battery cells put together to form a battery pack.
To make a battery, we take electrochemically active materials, like graphite, nickel manganese, cobalt and lithium, and make powders from them. These powders are mixed with solvents and adhesives, then coated onto metal (aluminium or copper) foils which are then packaged together inside cells.

This is a very precise process – otherwise the quality of the battery is impacted. At WMG, around 20 battery cells per day can be produced. At a gigafactory, production would be closer to 20 cells per second.

How are batteries recycled?
To recycle batteries, fire is used to recover most of the metals. Water can then be used to get further metals that can’t be reached using heat alone. There are still difficulties however in recycling lithium or graphite, which make up a large percentage of the metals in the batteries themselves.

With 11 million tonnes of lithium-ion batteries expected to need recycling by 2030, the need to build domestic capacity to recycle them is greater than ever.

Wed 19 Jul 2023, 11:26 | Tags: HVM Catapult Energy Systems Transport Electrification