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CGLN hosts inaugural event on lithium-ion batteries

On 20th July, the CGLN hosted its inaugural event on lithium-ion batteries, where panelists Sir David King, Pam Thomas (CEO of the Faraday Institution) and Martin Wood (Automotive Team at UK Department for International Trade) led by Lord Triesman discussed the opportunities and challenges presented by lithium-ion battery technology.

Sir Dave King stressed that the biggest challenge regarding electric vehicles was the provision of charging points, stating that ‘what will be needed is the public provision of charging points everywhere where cars are parked… this is an extensive demand and it is already restricting the purchase of electric vehicles…and it does require the Government to step in and see that the regulatory system is produced, the finance is found and that it is rolled forward.’

Martin Wood, when asked about the need for resilience in supply chains, highlighted the importance of ‘attracting investment into the UK and even in other areas of Europe…to create a more robust supply chain both from a distance point of view but also recognising the concerns around the extraction of materials such as cobalt’.

Answering one of the questions from the audience Pam highlighted the key role that institutions and young professionals are playing in developing key technologies, outlining that ‘we certainly need to be educating the workforce for the electrified future and in battery technology. We have predicted that we are going to need about 40,000 technicians and engineering specialists to service the 150-gigawatt hours per annum of manufacturing battery technology in the UK’ and that ‘across the whole of our lifestyle we need to be adapting to the fact that we are [moving] away from the combustion engine towards battery-powered vehicles and an electrified life.’

The key highlights of the conversation were:

1: EV’s and batteries are the future

  • The pandemic has not slowed the industry – it has accelerated development in the industry.

  • While it feels like there is acceleration in gigafactories and EV manufacturing in the UK, there is still a long way to go.

  • One of the biggest challenges in relation to EVs is the absence of charging points, and they are being left out of the planning for new car parks. We need the public provision of charging points everywhere that cars are parked and this requires government intervention.

2: We need to focus on a circular economy:

  • It is important to focus not just on what the EV’s emit, but we need a green method of producing the EV’s themselves.

  • Lithium-ion is likely to be the answer in the short term, but it is essential for us to look into other chemistries for the long term which are amenable to more ethical sources.

  • The rarity of the disposition of materials around the planet is a challenge to overcome.

  • The Faraday Institute with their partners has devised a method that allows us to recover materials 100 x faster than any other method. It is an important development for the green lifecycle of battery technology.

3: The UK must develop a new workforce ready for the future

  • We need to be educating a workforce for the electrified future.

  • Many engineers from the oil and gas sector have joined the offshore wind industry. It is likely the same will happen with the battery and EV industries.

  • Young people are interested in sustainability and, as such, are more likely to move into a job that seems to be fit for purpose in the 21st century.

4: We need to think long-term

  • The UK government has been focused on the short term, but we should be looking to get bigger investment and longer-term funding to get us to safer, cheaper and cleaner batteries.

  • The government have set us a legal target to be net-zero by 2050 – we need a roadmap to get there and that roadmap needs to include this technology.


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