The UK government announced a battery strategy which was welcomed – but critics said it does not go far enough.
The announcement from the Department for Business and Trade – made unusually on a Sunday – included a string of quotes from industry leaders on why they all thought the strategy was a good thing.
The government aim is a globally competitive battery supply chain. Nusrat Ghani MP, minister for industry and economic security, said the government was committed to over £2 billion ($2.5 billion) in new capital and R&D funding to the automotive sector.
“The UK will be a world leader in sustainable battery design and manufacture, underpinned by a thriving battery innovation ecosystem,” she said. She added the UK is well placed to reap the rewards thanks to its comparative advantage in research and advanced manufacturing.
But not everyone is accepting the government line. Huw Roberts of CHR Metals said: “I am surprised that so much of the focus is on electric vehicle batteries as the whole energy transition process depends on generating, transmitting and storing renewable energy, without which EVs are themselves a white elephant.
“So my feeling is that more of the focus should be on building the needed infrastructure which will allow EVs to become the standard for transportation and less focus on being world leading, beating, etc. in the field of battery technology itself – notwithstanding how important batteries will be.”
Second-life battery company Connected Energy, which works with companies such as Renault, Volvo and Caterpillar to extend the useful life of EV batteries by turning them into stationary storage, thinks the government has missed an opportunity.
Its CEO, Matthew Lumsden, said: “The UK battery industry is an exciting, high-value, rapidly expanding sector and the UK should be at its forefront. However, while there are some positives, this is not the strategy of a nation with leadership intent.
“Whilst it is positive to see the emphasis placed on the circular economy, the strategy fails to recognise the distinction between reuse and recycling – and the value that they individually represent to the economy.
“Giving a spent EV battery a second life in stationary storage can extend its useful life by 100% thereby offsetting the need for new material extraction. This is particularly impactful as it can reduce the UK’s dependence on critical mineral imports and its exposure to environmentally and socially disruptive activities. Indeed, for every MWh of battery that is repurposed, circa 450 tonnes of carbon are saved relative to a new battery.”
Quentin Willson, founder of FairCharge, a body that promotes EV charging policies, said: “The government announcing their battery strategy on a Sunday may seem odd but there are meetings this week with global investors, so running the flag up the mast now sends signals of the government’s future industrial strategy.
“This is undoubtedly good news that they realise they need to be much clearer after the much-criticised U-turn on 2030 to 2035 (banning sales of new ICE cars, ed.). Global investors and industry need to see consistency on battery and supply chain policy. But China, the US and Europe are powering ahead with battery investment, so the sums involved in the UK are rather small.”
Dr Alistair Davidson, director of the Consortium for Battery Innovation, said they agree with the UK government that batteries will play an essential role in the transition. “Batteries, particularly lithium and advanced lead batteries, will have a key role to play given the applications they support and the vast scale of batteries needed to meet energy storage targets,” he said. “We will continue to work with our members and government agencies in the UK to support efforts to drive battery innovation.”