Putting the UK in pole position for battery tech

Putting the UK in pole position for battery tech

A government-funded project is leading the pack in battery development, and a collaboration between Coventry University and Unipart is playing a key role.

There are few places in the world where the so-called trickle-down effect of technology from high performance industries to more commonplace environments is better demonstrated than on the outskirts of a small village in the Vale of the White Horse in Oxfordshire.

Grove, after all, is home to the Williams Group headquarters – an organisation made globally famous by the success of its Formula One racing team and, in recent years, by its ability to harness the innovation that drives its motorsport campaigns and transfer it outside the cut and thrust world of F1.

Spearheading that process is the group’s technology and engineering services company, Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE), which provides expertise to a range of sectors from automotive and aerospace through to defence and healthcare.

But it’s on the familiar turf of the transport industry that one of WAE’s most exciting and salient projects is underway; an initiative that is seeing it collaborate with Coventry University’s and Unipart Group’s Institute for Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME), alongside other partners, to confront one of the major challenges facing the transport sector – that of reducing its emissions footprint.

Even before the recently-announced ban on the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles in Britain post-2040, low carbon transport was high on the UK government’s agenda. The Department for Transport revealed over £100m in grants through the Advanced Propulsion Centre to share among a number of innovative projects in pursuit of technology developments that could save 50 million tonnes of CO2 by 2023.

Central to that effort is the ambitious WAE-led H1PERBAT project – one of only seven funded by the grants – which has seen AME work with WAE and several key partners as part of a consortium   which has inspired the creation of the UK’s largest independent battery manufacturing facility, set to open next door to AME in Coventry in early 2019.

Aston Martin Lagonda and Warwick Manufacturing Group also collaborated on the H1PERBAT initiative, with the consortium’s ultimate aim to pool respective expertise and capabilities and address a gap in British industry that needs bridging if high performance electric vehicle batteries are to become a reality.

The battery expertise that the Williams Group originally derived from its F1 programme (following the introduction of energy recovery systems into the sport in 2009) and, latterly, from the manufacture of battery systems for the zero-emission race series Formula E, makes WAE ideally-placed to lead the consortium – and its recent work with Aston Martin on the marque’s first all-electric model, the RapidE, is providing a useful groundwork for the project

For Coventry University’s part, AME is developing skills and bringing a range of research and technical capabilities to the table, which are born out of the University’s longstanding collaboration with Unipart and which benefit from Unipart’s tier one manufacturing expertise.

AME will lead on joining and metrology in the project and is supporting the design of the battery system and   manufacturing process, while also completing feasibility studies around production scale automation – a crucial aspect of the initiative as it explores how it can create more commercial opportunities for battery technologies in the UK.

It’s an initiative that will ensure AME is at the forefront of future hybrid and electric vehicle development as the university’s portfolio of transport-focused research activities continues to grow.

For more information on Coventry University’s research, visit www.coventry.ac.uk/research.