Britain’s role in the EV ecosystem

Interview with Jon Regnart – Advanced Propulsion Centre Automotive Trend Strategist

At Connected Car we believe that EVs and connected/autonomous vehicles are inextricably linked, and over the coming months we will be spending time digging down into the EV market. As a UK-based media channel, and while our readership is global, we can’t be blamed for having an interest in what EV development is taking place in the UK. Fortuitous, then, that we should be brought into contact with the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the subject of this feature.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is a UK Government-backed initiative, a joint venture between UK Government and the automotive industry born out of the automotive council. Its mission statement says that it will ‘enable the research and development of the propulsion technologies that will lead us to a cleaner world’. The APC claims to be at the forefront of these developments, however it is are also looking at manufacturing and supply chain improvements. Getting the chemistry right is vital for the product; but scaling up the manufacturing processes and supply chains behind the scenes is vital if this technology is to be brought to mass market.  Generating innovations is great but anchoring UK based manufacturing is what really benefits communities.

To this point, the APC has invested in the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (UKBIC) – a new facility in Coventry for battery manufacturing development that will have the capability to produce batteries using Gigafactory processes. This, it is suggested, will propel the UK forward by bringing experts from academia and industry together to deliver innovation and R&D.

We decided we needed to be more EV knowledgeable and should talk with the APC. Vince Holton sat down with Jon Regnart to learn more.

 VH:        OK, let’s kick-off with a big question – will EVs make the world a better/cleaner place?

 JR:         In its purest form, the simple answer would be yes. However, this becomes more complex when you consider the life cycle of a battery and its associated materials – thus the more accurate answer is yes, but we need to look at efficiencies in production and recycling as well as where the electricity comes from.

With regards to local pollution, EVs will certainly make the air in urban areas cleaner as they emit no harmful pollutants such as NOx or particulate matter. EVs also emit zero tailpipe CO2 which also helps tackle global climate change.

The pinch point, however, comes in the production of the batteries, motors and power electronics. The critical materials and chemicals needed to manufacture these components require large amounts of energy and there’s the implication of mining these materials and the ongoing sustainability of that.

However overcoming these problems is not insurmountable. Solutions such as recycling electric powertrains and retrieving the rare and critical materials, or, transitioning to technologies with more benign effects on the environment are actively being researched in the UK ……