The £130m (€150m) UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) was officially opened yesterday, on the same day that permission was given for a battery gigafactory to be built on a nearby airport.
The 18,500 square metre national battery centre has been working on a range of technologies with over 80 battery technicians, engineers, and support staff and a pilot line for battery production.
The aim of the UKBIC centre it to support any organisation working on batteries for electric vehicles, rail, aerospace, industrial and domestic equipment and static energy storage to scale up production before committing to the huge investment required for mass production.
The challenge though is to raise the billions of pounds needed to build the gigafactories, a significant step up from the £130m for for UKBIC or reported £100m for the AESC Envision plant for Nissan in Sunderland. The UK Government has made up to £500m funding available for a gigafactory, which the West Midlands will be bidding for in due course on the back of the opening of the new centre.
“Completed at deliberate speed during the pandemic, UKBIC is a key part of the UK Government’s Faraday Battery Challenge, created to fast track the commercialisation of cost-effective, high-performance, durable, safe, low-weight and recyclable batteries,” said Jeff Pratt, UKBIC’s Managing Director.
“The battery manufacturing equipment installed covers the whole production process from electrode manufacturing, cylindrical and pouch cell assembly, to formation aging and testing and battery modules and packs. The facility is also a training centre to upskill the UK battery sector,” he said.
“The Faraday Institution believes that the equivalent of seven large gigafactories will be needed in the UK and employment in the automotive industry and battery supply chain could grow from 170,000 to 220,000 by 2040,” he added.
This is consistent with the call last week from the UK car industry for six battery gigafactories and the region is also planning its own factory.
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In addition to funding from the Faraday Battery Challenge through UK Research and Innovation, UKBIC is also part-funded through the West Midlands Combined Authority which is backing the gigafactory next door.