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Electric Vehicle Battery Technology & Gigafactories: The Race is On

High Volume Battery Production Facility

Just nine months ago, the UK Government accelerated plans for the ban on new petrol and diesel vehicles, where the target was brought forward by Boris Johnson from 2040 to 2030. There are some exceptions though, which include plug-in hybrid and full hybrid models that will have a five-year extension.

Ultimately, this forms a major part of the nation’s overarching target to achieve net-zero on all greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Transport, however, remains the largest contributing sector in the UK when it comes to carbon dioxide emissions, where it accounted for 30% even in a locked down 2020.

How will the UK shift to electric vehicle technology and what needs to be done to maintain the country’s vital automotive industry? The roll-out of gigafactories are high up on the priority list, in order to research, develop and manufacture batteries suitable for electric domestic and commercial vehicles.

What is a Gigafactory?

The term ‘gigafactory’ was initially coined by Tesla’s Elon Musk, where ‘giga’ represents the unit of measurement for billions. The electric car company currently operates out of four fully-operational facilities of this kind worldwide – three in USA and one in China – while construction is underway for the company’s first European site in Berlin.

‘Gigafactory’ is now more widely used as the buzzword referring to large manufacturing plants for lithium-ion battery technology, where the roll-out of such facilities across the world is the key component to ensure that the demand for electric vehicles can be met.

The UK Government has committed to investing £500million in battery development and their mass production over the next four years. With planning granted so far for gigafactories in the North and the Midlands, the wheels are in motion, but the final destination may be a little way in the distance.

The Faraday Institution estimates that eight gigafactories will be needed in the UK by 2040 in order to meet demand, and ultimately, maintain our strong position within the wider European automotive industry.

Impact on UK’s Automotive Sector

Being able to manufacture lithium-ion cells here in the UK is crucial to ensure that the future of the industry is not shut out from global supply. Avoiding the need to ship such heavy yet delicate batteries from overseas is critical to keep carbon emissions during this process to a minimum.

The risks associated with the handling and packing of such sensitive goods are paramount too, where securing a localised battery supply chain would minimise costly and potentially harmful repercussions.

Essentially, if the UK is unable to meet this capability, the existing automotive sector may have to relocate, as the risks above combined with Brexit challenges, are just too high.

Battery Technology Environments

We know that the processes for lithium battery development, manufacture and testing must be conducted in circumstances that meet a number of rigorous conditions. Their moisture-sensitive nature means that an extreme low-humidity cleanroom environment is necessary, where other critical control aspects such as static dissipative, fire protection and temperature control also form part of the specification, all in line with an ISO standard classification. The complexities here cannot be understated and must be fully understood to achieve a no-faults-forward approach within battery development and quality assurance.

In their recent report, HSSMI highlights the need for critical partnerships within the supply chain when it comes to Gigafactory projects. This not only concerns a contractor’s competency to fulfil specifications but also their ability to achieve timescales, an aspect that will be under increased scrutiny as we speed towards 2030.

Therefore, engaging with and appointing reputable contractors with proven capabilities in this specialist area of construction are key in order to achieve the onerous specifications that this manufacturing process requires.

The Single-Box, Double-Skin Solution

As pioneers of the UK’s first and only single-box, double-skin solution for battery industrialisation centres and gigafactories, CREST are market leaders in understanding the complexities of constructing internal fit-outs that are required for advanced battery technology processes.

Through continued forward-thinking and problem-solving skills, we have reached a pivotal stage in our service offering and are available to discuss upcoming plans at the earliest opportunity.

For more information, give our cleanroom envelope specialist, Mark Kendrick, a call on 07585 301 425 or send your enquiry here.

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