£89m in joint UK government and industry funding has been awarded to 20 net zero tech projects, including a new lithium scale-up plant and revolutionary new EV battery systems.

The funding package, awarded through the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC), is made up of £45.2m from the government alongside a further £42.7m from the automotive industry. It includes four collaborative R&D projects, five scale-up projects to assess if businesses in the automotive sector are ready for growth and seven feasibility studies to prepare projects to develop large-scale manufacturing facilities in the UK.

Aston Martin, Yasa, Gestamp’s Autotech Engineering R&D UK, and Perkins are the recipients of the R&D project funding.

Aston Martin will use the funding to accelerate the development of a luxury battery electric vehicle platform, including vehicle lightweighting, a digital toolchain and electrification training.

Mercedes’ Yasa, makers of the world’s lightest in-wheel electric motor, will use the funding to create an innovative combined electric propulsion and handling system, with the aim of revolutionising existing EV systems.

Among the companies that received funding under the scale-up projects were Green Lithium Refining, which plans to build a lithium scale-up plant in Teesside, and Geothermal Engineering, which plans to install Direct Litihim Extraction at the UK’s first deep geothermal power plant in Cornwall.

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Among the feasibility study projects that received funding were Cornish Lithium’s proposed exploration of the availability of lithium and other battery metals in Cornwall, and Aberdeen Minerals’ proposed study of innovative mineral processing routes, whose aim is to accelerate the low-carbon production of cathode raw materials.

Securing the UK’s EV supply chains

Faced with volatile market dynamics, the UK has been making moves to secure its own EV supply chains in recent times, with the emergence of mineral exploration startup Cornish Lithium and Tata Motors’ battery plant in Somerset.

In August, Cornish Lithium received £53.6m in investment from the Treasury-funded UK Infrastructure Bank to open Britain’s first lithium mine, and in July, Tata Group announced its intention to build a £4bn battery plant in the UK, lured by generous government subsidies.  

However, the UK’s EV strategy has also been beset by numerous failures. In January, Britishvolt, a startup manufacturer of lithium-ion batteries, entered into administration. The company, once valued at £809m and feted as Britain’s first home-grown gigafactory, complained of a lack of government support and a fatal delay in Treasury-agreed funding.

More recently, the UK’s flip-flopping over timelines for the ICE ban has shaken the confidence of auto manufacturers, who have called for “binding targets for infrastructure rollout” and “a clear and reliable regulatory framework which creates market certainty and consumer confidence”.

Back in March, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders called for an acceleration of green technology project funding, a de-risking of private capital with more generous incentives, and support for clean-tech start-ups and scale-ups.

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