Up to £42 million in funding has been awarded to four UK-based research projects aimed at improving battery technology to speed up the adoption of electric vehicles (EVs).
The funding is being delivered through the Faraday Institution, a government-backed body aiming to push forward research and development in battery technology.
Projects to have been awarded funding include work to examine how environmental stresses damage EV batteries over time, as well as the development of solid state batteries, which it is hoped will be lighter and safer than existing batteries.
Government has identified EVs – which offer zero tailpipe emissions – as a key technology to reduce air pollution and to meet future climate change obligations, and has set a goal to end the sale of petrol and diesel-only cars and vans by 2040.
However, concerns over the battery capacity and available charging infrastructure are seen as major barriers to overcome in the advance of EVs, which currently only make up a small percentage of vehicles sold to UK consumers every year in a market which is dominated by petrol and diesel car sales.
The four projects include:
Extending battery life – Led by the University of Cambridge, with nine other university and 10 industry partners, will examine how environmental and internal battery stresses (such as high temperatures, charging and discharging rates) damage electric vehicle (EV) batteries over time. Results will include the optimization of battery materials and cells to extend battery life (and hence EV range), reduce battery costs, and enhance battery safety.
Battery system modelling – Imperial College London (ICL) will lead a consortium of six other university and 17 industry partners to equip industry and academia with new software tools to understand and predict battery performance, by connecting understanding of battery materials at the atomic level all the way up to an assembled battery pack. The goal is to create accurate models for use by the automotive industry to extend lifetime and performance, especially at low temperatures.
Recycling and reuse – A project led by the University of Birmingham, including seven other academic institutions and 14 industrial partners, will determine the ways in which spent lithium batteries can be recycled. With the aim to recycle 100% of the battery, the project will look how to reuse the batteries and their materials, to make better use of global resources, and ultimately increase the impact of batteries in improving air quality and decarbonisation.
Next generation solid state batteries – The University of Oxford will lead an effort with six other university partners and nine industrial partners to break down the barriers that are preventing the progression to market of solid-state batteries, that should be lighter and safer, meaning cost savings and less reliance on cooling systems. The ambition of this project is to demonstrate the feasibility of a solid state battery with performance superior to Li-ion in EV applications.
Commenting on the research, Business Minister Richard Harrington, said: “With 200,000 electric vehicles set to be on UK roads by the end of 2018 and worldwide sales growing by 45% in 2016, investment in car batteries is a massive opportunity for Britain and one that is estimated to be worth £5 billion by 2025.
“Through our flagship Industrial Strategy and its Future of Mobility and Clean Growth Grand Challenges, we are committed to making Britain the ‘go-to’ destination for the development and deployment of this game-changing technology.”
In a separate funding announcement yesterday, several demonstration projects aimed at trialling Vehicle-to-Grid technology, which it is thought could make EV charging more efficient and potentially put less strain on the power grid, were also revealed.
Delivered via Innovate UK’s V2G Innovation Fund, projects include work to support vehicle-to-grid charging at a bus garage, a trial on 1,000 V2G fleet vehicles and public charging networks with a local authority and charge-point provider.
UK Power Networks, which is involved in four projects worth up to £11 million of funding, said that the research represents a ‘tremendous opportunity’ to explore how electricity networks can use battery capacity to benefit consumers.
The company added that V2G technology enables energy stored in an electric vehicle’s battery to be fed back into the electricity network at times of peak demand, which means that by recharging when demand is low and putting energy into the electricity network when it is high, and can help to balance peaks and troughs in energy demand.
Ian Cameron, head of innovation at UK Power Networks said: “Electric vehicles are effectively energy sources on wheels, so there are tremendous opportunities to explore how electricity networks can use any spare capacity in those batteries to benefit our customers.
“In the future you could use your car battery to power your house or earn money by selling its spare energy back into the network at peak times, and all of this whilst ensuring you have enough energy for your next day’s commute. We’re innovating to keep our customers moving at the lowest possible cost.”