A consortium of seven UK-based organisations has signed a memorandum of understanding to combine ambitions to develop prototype solid-state battery technology, targeting automotive applications.

The agreement will see Johnson Matthey, Faraday Institution, Britishvolt, Oxford University, UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, Emerson & Renwick and University of Warwick, collaborate on the project.

News of Britishvolt’s involvement in the consortium comes hot on the heels of the company announcing this week it is to partner with Glencore for the supply of cobalt.

As part of the deal, Glencore has also made an undisclosed investment into Britishvolt.

For the MoU partners, solid-state batteries offer significant potential advantages compared to conventional lithium-ion batteries. A successful outcome of the collaboration would be to harness and industrialise UK academic capability to produce cells using scalable manufacturing techniques.

The consortium comprises:

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  • Faraday Institution; the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, which has led the consortium’s formation and will head its development
  • Britishvolt; the UK-based gigaplant developer, with a site in North East England.
  • E+R (Emerson & Renwick) – designer of manufacturing equipment
  • Johnson Matthey – working in sustainable technologies and battery materials
  • Oxford University – leading the Faraday Institution’s solid-state battery project (SOLBAT) and providing scientific understanding to the consortium
  • UK Battery Industrialisation Centre – battery manufacturing development facility to enable UK battery manufacturing scale-up and facilitate up-skilling in the battery sector
  • WMG; University of Warwick; battery R&D and initial scale-up capability, as well as academic and apprenticeship skills development

The preliminary design for a prototyping facility has been developed and sources of funding are currently being sought.

“Collaboration between industry, government and our academic institutions is putting the UK at the forefront of global efforts to develop automotive technologies such as solid-state batteries,” said UK Minister for Investment, Lord Grimstone.

“It is the work of our research and development base, like those brought together by this consortium, that will give us the tools needed to forge a strong and sustainable future for the automotive sector and increase our contribution to combatting climate change.”

Solid-state batteries (SSBs) offer potential advantages compared to existing lithium-ion battery technologies, including the ability to hold more charge for a given volume (leading to increased EV range) and reduced costs of safety-management. Early deployment of SSBs is likely to be in consumer electronics, niche automotive applications and unmanned aerospace, before being used in broader EV markets.

The Faraday Institution forecasts that, in 2030, SSBs are likely to take a 7% share of the global consumer electronics battery market and a 4% share of the EV battery market. Global SSB revenues from sales to EV manufacturers are expected to reach US$8bn by 2030 and then grow rapidly to 2040 and 2050.

However, there are fundamental scientific challenges which need to be addressed before high power SSBs with commercially relevant performance can be realised. The Faraday Institution’s SOLBAT project has made considerable progress in addressing these challenges during the last three years.

The construction of the facility being developed by the collaboration, will enable SSB technology to emerge from UK university laboratories. It will allow larger cells to be produced using scalable manufacturing techniques that will be improved iteratively through investigation of the causes of problems which emerge during manufacture and testing of prototype batteries.

This will leverage the collective knowledge of Faraday Institution SSB researchers and the industrial partners.

“The realisation of a prototype solid-state battery cell will be a great achievement for the UK battery industry and this consortium will be a critical enabler for delivering this milestone,” said Johnson Matthey Battery Materials CEO, Christian Gunther.

“Delivering enhanced range and safety over traditional lithium-ion battery technologies will be a key driver for battery electric vehicle adoption, supporting the transition to a net zero future.”

For his part, Britishvolt CTO, Allan Paterson, added: “Solid-state is the holy grail of battery solutions. Solid-state batteries have the potential to increase energy density significantly over battery technology available today and could dramatically, and positively, change the world of electric vehicles.

“Britishvolt will be at the forefront of commercialising this step change over the coming years.

“This collaboration, which includes major global industrial leaders such as Johnson Matthey and academic leadership from University of Oxford, underscores another key objective in our technology roadmap; home grown intellectual property.”