Guest blog: Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh sets out a roadmap for the UK battery sector

Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends at the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) sets out a roadmap for rapidly growing the UK's electric vehicle battery manufacturing capabilities

In the latest quarterly demand report (June 2023) from the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), we forecasted over 3,300 GWh (gigawatt hours) of global battery demand for the global automotive sector, and over 5m more EVs (Electric Vehicles) by 2030. Battery technology, across multiple industries, plays a significant part in the global race to lower emissions.

In May I attended the Battery Show Europe in Stuttgart, where it was clear to see that the industry is responding to the rapid surge in demand. Here are my key take aways;

Battery recycling- This is not a future trend; it is already happening Most of the front-runner battery nations are developing a holistic end-to-end supply chain across the entire battery lifecycle, including the end-of-life plan. Innovate UK recently published a comprehensive Materials and Manufacturing Vision 2050. I would encourage the UK battery sector to develop a tailored vision of that document, focussed on battery materials. APC recently published an Automotive Battery End of Life (EoL) value chain showing the path of the UK's growing re-use and recycling industry.

The next few years will be challenging as only a small number of facilities will be commercially viable, with some significant risk in the supply of material to recycle, but this will ramp up over the next 20 years, providing an opportunity that government, OEMs and private investors can take advantage of through supporting R&D and initial plant deployments. Great work is already being done by UK universities and as part of projects like RECOVAS and RELIB (Reuse of EV Lithium-Ion Batteries).

The UK has an opportunity to create a low carbon circular economy for batteries over the coming decades if the building blocks are put in place now.

Digitalisation- The battery sector is experiencing a rapid transformation and the significance of digitalisation is being realised. The fast-growing EV market calls for an agile advancement and optimisation of battery systems, where digitalisation plays an enabling role. Themes like tailored digital twinning and test and certification are evolving rapidly. Battery management systems (BMS) require integration of hardware and software to ensure optimal operation, safety, and efficiency of the battery system. Then we have the monitoring of battery performance and degradation, collating data throughout the whole lifecycle. Many companies, especially SMEs, are shifting towards the development of a ‘battery passport,’ to ensure battery manufacturers and OEMs can meet emerging regulations and policies for circularity and sustainability. Considering the strong digital presence, software development and manufacturing automation expertise across the UK R&D and innovation ecosystem, there is great potential to leverage such capabilities for the success of the UK battery industry, across the entire battery value chain.

Collaboration- the bedrock for success. Having access to upstream supply chain and building a resilient end-to-end supply chain requires national and international cooperation and agreements. Linking each part of the supply chain, making sure that SME’s and startups, developing and bringing some of the lower level TRL (technology readiness level) innovation to the market, have access to OEM’s benefits the entire ecosystem and anchors the value add from research and development in the UK.

Education and training- The UK are ahead of the game in industrial skill development and have a great opportunity to leverage that expertise for the benefit of the battery industry. The launch of the “National Electrification Skills Framework and Forum” in 2021 has provided a strong baseline for industry and helps to identify future competency requirements. UK industry must work closely and collaboratively with the education sector to leverage this expertise and maintain and strengthen the global position of the UK in this space. This could also build more business opportunities across the supply chain by connecting talents and experts at all levels, from technicians to PhD-level scientists across the global battery industry and bring value back to the UK battery ecosystem.

Batteries are a big part of the UK’s net zero journey, and the automotive sector will dominate future battery demand. 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 can bring these next generation battery technologies to market.

Overall, the UK has the potential to become a leader in battery technology. By focusing on battery recycling, digitalisation, collaboration, education, and attracting external investment, the UK can strengthen its battery industry, meet global demand, and provide sustainable battery solutions for various sectors.

Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh is a Chartered Engineer (CEng) and a Fellow of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers (FIMechE) with over 20 years’ experience in both academia and industry. Having spent most of his career alongside industrial sectors, Hadi has been working with research and technology organisations, academia and industry, to drive collaboration, de-risk innovation, accelerate technology transfer, and drive growth in the UK manufacturing and transport ecosystem. He joined the APC as the Head of Technology Trends to lead the technology strategy and roadmaps.