“The challenge is to get UK to be the go-to place for batteries" - Faraday Battery Challenge deputy director Jacqui Murray

“The challenge is to get UK to be the go-to place for batteries" - Faraday Battery Challenge deputy director Jacqui Murray

Skills shortages in the UK's connected, autonomous, shared and electric (CASE) sector should not lead to a cannibalisation of staff between companies as demand for specific disciplines rises says a British University Professor.

UK manufacturing companies have long expressed frustration at the lack of qualified engineering staff available to them, but the rapid rise in the need for CASE personnel is causing a further headache.

"That growth will not be easy and we are also facing skill shortages," said Advanced Propulsion Systems WMG, Professor, David Greenwood at this week's Battery and Energy Storage conference at the University of Warwick in the UK Midlands. "We need to be careful we don't spend the next year poaching employees from each other as that means problems.

"In-company training and re-skilling is going to be a major part of that. We have been world-leading in the UK, but other people have not been standing still. This is not a sector which is going to stand still. The UK Battery Industrialisation sector is an enormous programme [and] by the first quarter of 2020 we will have a battery manufacturing research facility.

"The level of interest we are getting from Japan, South Korea and the US in what we are doing, has been tremendous. Electric vehicle charging has come forward in terms of infrastructure provision and technology. That dialogue still has some way to go. That has come down to a much more rational discussion and we will see investment step up. Nissan in Sunderland is still the leading cell plant in Europe – we are in that game."

Professor Greenwood's facility at the University of Warwick evaluates challenges for industry including cost and performance of electrified powertrains in comparison to conventional engines; the increasing integration of electrical and electronic components into system architectures; and the ability to scale up and manufacture components in sufficient, cost effective quantities while maintaining essential levels of quality, performance and safety.

Research covers energy storage systems, electric machines and power electronics, as well as system energy management. The group is working with partners including high volume passenger car, performance vehicles, off-highway and commercial vehicles, rail and marine systems.

Also with a significant presence at the energy conference was the UK-government backed Faraday Battery Challenge, part of Britain's Innovate UK initiative with GBP246m (US$313m) of funding.

Faraday estimates the demand for electrification batteries to be worth GBP5bn to the UK and GBP50bn to Europe by 2025.

In the UK this is driven in part by government's plan to ban new conventional petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 to be replaced by electric and zero emissions vehicles.

"The challenge is to get the UK to be the go-to place for batteries," said Faraday Battery Challenge deputy director, Jacqui Murray at the conference. "It is quite a challenge. In every part of the value chain, I see complexity.

Through the Challenge, the UK government has committed to invest in research and innovation projects, as well as new facilities to scale-up and advance production, use and recycling of batteries.

While the government investment will focus on the automotive sector initially to meet its commitment and the growing global demand for electric vehicles, this will also help advance battery development for other applications for an electrified economy.

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