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Pioneering research into battery technology, the electric vehicle supply chain and hydrogen vehicles is to be being backed by GBP30m of UK government funding, minister for investment Gerry Grimstone announced today (30 March).

Twenty two studies will receive a share of GBP9.4m, including proposals to build a plant in Cornwall that will extract lithium for use in electric vehicle batteries, a plant to build specialised magnets for electric vehicle motors in Cheshire and lightweight hydrogen storage for cars and vans in Loughborough.

The government-backed Faraday Institution is also committing GBP22.6m to continue its work to further improve the safety, reliability and sustainability of batteries.

This funding comes ahead of the phasing out of the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, as pledged in the government's 10 point plan for a green industrial revolution. Research into alternative ways to power vehicles is a fundamental part of this transition, ensuring the UK remains a world leader in automotive technology and boosting jobs and skills in regions leading the way.

Grimstone said: "We have set an ambitious target to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. To support that it is crucial we invest in research so we can power ahead with the shift to electric vehicles as we build back greener from the pandemic.

"The world leading research announced today showcases the very best of British innovation and it will support all stages of the automotive supply chain to make the switch to electric vehicles  – from developing batteries, to exploring how to recycle them."

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By GlobalData

This latest round of studies funded through the Automotive Transformation Fund includes:

  • Cornish Lithium – Trelavour Hard Rock Lithium Scoping Study [Cornwall]: Lithium hydroxide is an essential part of vehicle battery production. This study will assess the feasibility of developing a sustainable UK supply chain through the construction of an extraction plant that will produce low-carbon lithium hydroxide from a hard rock source in St Austell.  
  • Less Common Metals – New UK Magnet Plant [Cheshire]: This study has identified a promising approach to create a new UK magnet plant that will produce high-quality lightweight magnets for motors in electric vehicles.  
  • Haydale Composites Solutions Ltd – Hydrogen storage for vehicles [Loughborough]: Storing hydrogen requires high-strength durable containers for safe operation in vehicles. This project will assess the suitability of Haydale's promising lightweight, low permeability storage tank, which could help to unlock the pathway to hydrogen propulsion.  

The Faraday institution will use today's funding to explore:

  • Battery safety, by investigating the root causes of cell failure in lithium-ion batteries and how this can lead to fires. It will also investigate the environmental consequences of such fires and help develop a consensus around the best method of fighting lithium-ion battery fires. 
  • Solid state batteries, which have the long-term potential to deliver improvements in safety and significantly increase the distance an electric vehicle can cover between charges.  
  • Recycling and reusing batteries to increase the sustainability of the future automotive supply chain.

The Faraday Institution will also examine the use of batteries on the energy grid and for aerospace. Under the institution's strengthened commercialisation strategy, which has also been launched today, it will identify and target market opportunities, ensuring that the UK remains a competitive global leader in the latest battery technology.  

The research announced today through the Advanced Propulsion Centre and the Faraday Institution demonstrates the government's commitment to nurturing innovation in the automotive industry. The government is committed to advance the UK's future transport system through its extensive R&D road map and to increase economy-wide R&D investment to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.