Batteries Hold Keys To UK Automotive Industry

| Transport

EV battery packs have a significant impact on the value added by UK manufacturers

Domestic manufacturing of automotive batteries is crucial in avoiding future “crippling tariffs” on vehicle exports.

The potential impact of the rules of origin clause in the Brexit trade deal has struck home with the automotive industry and the race is now on to grow a domestic EV battery industry to generate enough added value from UK sources to avoid export tariffs that could have a crippling effect.

Britishvolt is already planning its first “gigafactory” in Blyth, Northumberland due for completion within two years and planning is being sought by the authorities in Coventry for a further large scale manufacturing facility at the airport there, although no tenant has yet been identified for it.

Standards in Place

To support the growth of local manufacturing, the British Standards Institute (BSI) has now released two Publicly Accessible Specifications (PAS). The standards (PAS 7060 & PAS 7062) underpin innovation and enable consistent practices in the production of batteries and the development of battery technology. They will support the industry by providing good practice and efficiencies as it works towards its self-sufficient battery manufacturing target.

The standards follow the recently released, PAS 7061 Batteries for vehicle propulsion electrification – Safe and environmentally-conscious handling of battery packs and modules – Code of practice, which outlines best practice from sourcing material, through to manufacturing, use and disposal.

Engineering Facilities

The UK is in a very good position for automotive engineering development with some of the top global centres resident in the UK. Both Millbrook and HORIBA MIRA have been investing heavily in battery engineering facilities, both being equipped with extensive resources and equipment for development and testing batteries at cell, module or fully installed levels. These facilities include EMC, Climatic, Environmental and Abuse testing.

According to HORIBA MIRA, OEMs will need to source as much as they can from the UK and to implement these changes into the supply chain will require extensive development and testing, with EV battery packs being a major focus due to their high value.

The organisation has responded to soaring demand for advanced battery safety testing by investing £1.5m in a new Large Climatic Vibration Laboratory, which is just one example of creating much-needed test infrastructure, so that instead of looking to Europe, China and further afield, British automotive manufacturers can stay in the fast lane for EV production in what promises to be a lucrative market.

According to Greg Harris, Global Strategy Lead for Electrification at HORIBA MIRA, the UK automotive industry is concerned about what impact the new ‘rules of origin’ terms will have on their supply chains and profitability. The good news is that the UK is one of the most promising places to create and build a world-class battery production sector and has already built significant expertise in this area.

“A great example of this is the recent investment by BritishVolt, not only to build a new £2.6bn gigafactory in Blyth, but also to site its new global headquarters at our MIRA Technology Park in Nuneaton,” he says.

However, to achieve the collective aims of the country’s automotive industry and to continue with lucrative exports without the added burden of excessive tariffs, requires quick and strategic action by OEMs and their suppliers as well as a collaborative approach on all fronts.

“The whole infrastructure for developing EVs in the UK has changed, and only through investment and acceleration of R&D, academia, infrastructure to design, test and validate batteries, as well as an overhaul of the supply chain can we make the UK competitive in the EV market,” concludes Harris.

Jonathan Newell
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