The global market for batteries, electric machines and power electronics is set to reach £97bn in 2025 according to a new report by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (AC) in Coventry. The report sees 12 key opportunities which the UK is particularly well placed to address with a market of £24bn in 2025.
Within batteries there are opportunities in areas from cathode, anode and electrolyte production as well as cell and pack manufacturing alongside vehicle assembly plants. This market is worth £12bn by 2025.
Today, with 40kT battery grade capacity, the UK has one of the largest nickel refineries in Europe for electrode manufacturing. The existing Intellectual Property (IP) in battery grade nickel powder and pellet production is world-leading and could be extended to cobalt refining, says the report, although there is strong move to reduce the amount of cobalt in batteries.
For NMC and NCA (Lithium Nickel Manganese Cobalt Oxide and Lithium Nickel Cobalt Aluminium Oxide) battery chemistries, mixing the cathode materials of nickel, cobalt and lithium are value-add processes. Cathode mixing is rich in IP and very energy intensive, so the industry is locating cathode active mixing facilities in areas with access to low-cost, low-carbon electricity, near sources of pre-cursor materials with good transport links to customers.
This trend is highlighted by BASF plant co-located with Nornickel’s facility in Finland: THREE TEAM FOR EV CELL RECYCLING CLUSTER IN FINLAND .
This opportunity in nickel has additional knock-on effects on nickel refining and lithium hydroxide production. The difficulty of transporting the hydroxide makes localisation more attractive. The UK is well placed with two lithium hydroxide and carbonate producers who supply to existing cathode manufacturers.
For anode manufacturing the UK is a significant European producer of high grade needle coke for producing synthetic graphite. This is typically blended with natural graphite, silicon and other conductive additives for lithium ion battery anodes. Currently, most of the needle coke produced in the UK is sent