Leading the Pack in Battery Development and Energy Innovation

Building on 10 years’ experience working with industry on automotive electrification challenges, WMG has completed a project to standardise and automate the assembly of battery modules and packs for electric vehicles.

The challenge

The non-ICE sector currently makes up just 3% of the UK automotive market. Historically, UK manufacturers have avoided this comparatively small market, as the low production volumes have not justified the business case for investing in hybrid and electric vehicle R&D. However, with the global push for low-carbon vehicles, there is a growing need to increase the knowledge and capability in design and production methods for modular battery systems that can be applied across multiple manufacturers and varying volume builds. A national-level intervention was necessary to position the UK as a leading centre for energy storage system research and manufacture. This has been further reinforced by the government’s recent announcement in July 2017 that all new vehicles will be electrified by 2040.

The solution

The Automated Module-to-Pack Pilot Line for Industrial Innovation (AMPLiFII) project, led by WMG, was funded by the Office for Low Emission Vehicles (OLEV) in partnership with Innovate UK. It combines the research excellence of WMG and the University of Oxford with leading OEM partners Jaguar Land Rover, JCB, Alexander Dennis (ADL) and Ariel Motor Company, as well as technology specialists Delta Motorsport, Potenza Technology, Trackwise and Horiba MIRA, together with sustainability partners Axion and Augean.

The project team designed and developed a flexible, modular battery architecture for high-power and high-energy applications such as motorsport, heavy industrial plant, and fully electric and hybrid cars and buses. This flexibility enables supply chain partners to combine the demands of multiple markets to create economies of scale. These different applications use a common cell format, available from a number of cell suppliers. Importantly, the module design and production line could easily be adapted to other cell formats, such as pouch, thereby futureproofing the technology.

The project also looked at solutions to the issues around the recycling and reuse of battery packs by defining second-life and end-of-life process pathways to avoid the non-recoverable disposal of lithium-ion cells, as is the current practice.

The impact

The pilot line at WMG was developed to test and demonstrate manufacturing processes at automotive-volume production rates and quality. This ensures in-line quality verification, a no-faults-forward policy and a fully flexible, integrated approach. Methods for the reclamation of materials from cylindrical cells were developed and proved, and second-life opportunities for modules and packs were defined. As a result of the confidence gained from the success of this project, further government funding and industrial research projects have been approved, leading to a positive impact on the UK battery and electrification strategy.

What our partners say

“Delta Motorsport has benefitted significantly from being part of the AMPLiFII consortium, led by WMG. The breadth and depth of research (both academic and applied) carried out by all project partners as part of the programme will put Delta in an excellent position going forward, as it looks to move from an innovative (but heavily research-focused) consultancy to a commercial manufacturer of battery systems. In addition, the work carried out within the programme […] will benefit not just the programme partners and that supply chain but other Tier 1s and 2s as well.” Nick Carpenter, Engineering Director, Delta Motorsport Limited

 “The newly developed pack will provide a high-quality, cost-effective battery that can be applied to a new generation of hybrid construction machines and will be of significant benefit in the continuing innovation and global success of JCB.” Bob Womersley, Engineering Director – Hybrid Programmes, JCB

Energy Innovation Centre (EIC)

 

WMG’s EIC is the national facility for battery research across the R&D spectrum from materials and electrochemistry through to application integration, and recycling and reuse. The facilities support test, development and scale-up of new battery chemistries from concept through to fully proven traction batteries, produced in sufficient quantities for detailed industrial evaluation in target applications.

The EIC is currently undergoing a substantial expansion in capability and scope. The upgraded facility will provide an extensive range of energy storage research and development capabilities, ranging from raw materials for batteries through to recycling and ‘second life’ applications for post-use cells. The unique facilities encompass fundamental research through to industrialisation, accelerating the development of new technologies, products and associated manufacturing processes across multiple sectors, all from one location.

The expansion of the EIC has been funded through the Energy Research Accelerator, supported by Innovate UK. WMG leads the Integrated Energy (I-ERA) portion of this £120m project, enabling the UK to push the boundaries of energy innovation.

ERA Research at WMG will support innovation and growth in the automotive sector, by enabling technologies in energy storage and energy machines, drives and systems. Particular areas of focus include new battery chemistries, electromechanical behaviour, second-life applications, supercapacitors and high-rate chemistries.

Professor Dave Greenwood, Professor of Advanced Propulsion Systems at WMG, who leads the energy storage research team, sees the key challenges within the energy storage and management industry as “reducing battery cost, increasing energy density, reducing development time through accelerated testing and better predictive models, and doing all this without impact on safety and durability.

“As manufacturing capacity becomes challenged in the short to medium term, battery costs could level out for a time, allowing incremental improvements in Li-ion energy density. Over time, many more electric and plug-in hybrid vehicle models will become available to consumers.”

To learn more about the research, and how WMG could assist you in bringing new and improved products to market, contact [email protected].


WMG will be exhibiting on stand 107 at The Battery Show Europe.


 

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