UK Automotive industry at the centre of green recovery

Posted on 4 Nov 2020 by Tom Lane

More than £92 million in combined government and industry funding has been committed to 49 projects as the UK automotive sector looks towards a prosperous green recovery post COVID-19 and a low-carbon future.

The investment co-ordinated by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), is across three streams which include vital support for the continuation of industry research and development during the pandemic, funding for next-generation low-carbon technology, and a forward-thinking approach for the industrialisation of a zero-emission future.

Through the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF), 31 projects are set to benefit from £17 million of investment in feasibility studies to support the future of green manufacturing and economic recovery for the UK. The money will support commercially led research and development of manufacturing and product scale-up for a future automotive supply chain.

Successful projects demonstrated how their study could de-risk scaling up innovative technologies across the supply chain; remove the technical or commercial challenges with electric manufacturing in the UK, support the overall aim of the ATF.

Automotive robots welding in factory Automation Digital Transformation Smart Factory Manufacturing _155386817 STOCK IMAGE

Of the 31 winners under the ATF, 14 will look at the viability of scaling-up product manufacturing, nine will assess the economic feasibility of large-scale manufacturing facilities in the UK and eight will look at advanced manufacturing processes for electric vehicle technologies.

Meanwhile, £59 million will be committed to six automotive projects through the APC16 competition, including battery development, recycling and technology for cars, motorcycles, buses and commercial vehicles. The combined award with funding from the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) and matched by the industry partners, is aimed at providing support for technological growth, and will secure almost 3,000 jobs in the UK across research and manufacturing.

A further 12 projects have been selected as part of the government’s £16.5 million Advanced Route to Market Demonstrator (ARMD) competition, to support UK industry continuation with R&D after the COVID-19 pandemic and further accelerate the transition to zero emission vehicles. These small-scale collaborative projects are being led by a range of OEMs and SMEs, focusing on products and processes across energy storage & management, power electronics, electric machines, lightweighting and hydrogen.

Launched in June this year, the programme was conceived and launched within just two months, and the outputs will be displayed at the Cenex Low Carbon Vehicle Show in September 2021. Once successfully concluded, the 12-month projects will be used to seed future development programmes nationwide as well as overseas investment into the UK.

UK Automotive - The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) set out its priorities to assure the UK automotive industry’s future success - image courtesy of Depositphotos.
image courtesy of Depositphotos.

Ian Constance, Chief Executive at the APC said: ‘The investment in 49 innovative projects announced today demonstrates the real and ongoing commitment of government and industry working together to advance the UK’s vibrant automotive technology development sector towards a net zero future.

‘The creativity and engineering excellence in organisations receiving the latest matched funding stretches across the automotive landscape including buses, cars, motorcycles, commercial vehicles and components.

‘Since 2013, the APC has coordinated programmes to develop the latest zero carbon technologies and manufacturing processes which have secured over 40,000 jobs and are projected to save over 228 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.

‘The APC continues to provide the forum and resources for stakeholders to access global opportunities such as the UK’s potential £24 billion share of the global passenger car electrification market.’

Projects to receive funding from the Automotive Transition Fund (ATF) include:

  • TALGA – Ramping up the electric vehicle market relies heavily on improving the driving range of EVs which is ultimately defined by the energy density of the battery. Talga has developed a promising commercial route to produce a Silicon-Carbon composite anode product which offers significant improvements to range.
  • THURSO+ – Noting a surge of demand from customers for battery cells for electric vehicles, AMTE Power Ltd is scaling up its battery cell production facility in Scotland, identifying opportunities to boost manufacturing productivity and supply cells to specialist vehicle manufacturers – learnings that could be applied to the future development and roll-out of a significant new UK facility.

Winners from the APC16 competition include:

  • Axial Flux Traction – Saietta has engineered a breakthrough in electric propulsion motors for all vehicles from scooters to buses. Saietta’s unique Axial Flux Traction (AFT) technology delivers class-leading performance at price points required for mass market adoption. The APC16 grant will fast-track the first stage of production process planning, which will create capability to manufacture up to 150,000 units per annum and trigger the hiring of 250 highly skilled engineers in the first round of recruitment.
  • European Metal Recycling, This project will see the introduction of a new UK-based circular supply chain for electric vehicle batteries by developing the infrastructure to collect and recycle electric vehicles. The UK currently lacks the foundations to recycle the batteries and recover their materials meaning manufacturers are paying to ship the battery packs abroad for treatment, which is not only unsustainable, but exports valuable metals that are vital to the future of transportation.

Winning demonstrators under Advanced Route to Market Demonstrator (ARMD) competition include:

  • Nissan – NABCO Nissan is the largest manufacturer of electric vehicles in the UK. In collaboration with Newcastle University this project will develop an automated process of battery charging in the factory, boosting efficiency on the production line and driving out the cost of manufacturing.
  • Bamford Bus Company Ltd – This project will deliver a zero-emission electric single-deck bus that can either be powered by electric batteries or a hydrogen fuel-cell. The vehicle will test new technologies and help bus operators decide what blend of electric and fuel-cell buses are required in the zero-emission fleets of the future.

Over an initial 10-year lifespan, the APC has a goal to save 50 million tonnes of CO2 emissions from the automotive industry, supporting the UK government’s net-zero plans. This commitment is reflected in its ongoing investment in technologies that help lower emissions and protect the environment. The APC enables the relationship between the UK government and the companies leading UK-based projects aimed at advancing low-carbon automotive technology.

Further information about the 49 projects which will be funded through this round of investment can be found here