“There is currently a massive race for
capacity in lithium-ion battery factories
around the world, and the way many achieve
that is simply by replicating something that
has worked successfully before and then
developing it incrementally,” says Greenwood.
“As a result, the technique for building
batteries today essentially derives from
technology that was being used by the likes
of Sony to make video cassette tapes. Of
course, it has been highly developed since
then, but it takes a very brave investor to
bet billions of pounds on a completely new
manufacturing process, which is why I think
we haven’t moved the game on since then.”
Although the outcome of this research
could improve current battery technology,
Greenwood believes that the best result would
be to make battery technology cheaper. Cost is
currently one of the biggest stumbling blocks
for customers looking to make the switch to
an electric vehicle, but WMG’s research would
theoretically allow manufacturers to produce
batteries at the level of quality they are today,
but a signifi cantly lower cost.
“Clearly, the stage beyond lowering the cost
of production is, by arranging materials in a
diff erent way, to ensure the energy density of
the battery is much higher. This would result
in an increased range for the vehicle and
improved performance, improving the
product off ering to the customer,” he adds.
A race worth winning
Although EV manufacturers will be keeping
a close eye on WMG’s results, it is the Tier 1
suppliers that will likely benefi t most from the
research. The UK Battery Industrialization
Centre is a close partner in the program and
Greenwood says it has already shared a lot of
data about the lines it has installed. Similarly,
QinetiQ has been a close supporter and the
118 // January 2020 // www.electrichybridvehicletechnology.com
WMG is also looking to work alongside
Nissan’s former battery provider, AESC.
“Although the OEMs clearly want to know
how cheaply we can make the technology and
how fast we can pull it off , it is highly unlikely
they will be the immediate users. We see the
likes of Samsung, LG or Panasonic actually
implementing the fi ndings and suggestions
from the program,” Greenwood explains.
Those Tier 1 suppliers excited by the
prospect might have to be patient, because
the initial program is predicted to run for four
to fi ve years. However, Greenwood points out
that part of the Faraday Institution’s role is to
steer the program in much the same way as an
industrial research project, attracting interest
and further funding from those
parties that could benefi t the most.
“This project was put together very
much around an industrial need, not just
an academic curiosity,” Greenwood says.
“The price, the quality and the energy
density of batteries is determined not just
by the materials that they’re made from,
but also from the manufacturing processes.
“That is particularly the case now because
the scale of manufacturing is so huge,” he adds.
“For example, a Tesla Gigafactory will produce
20 cells a second and an average technical
coating line will be working through 90 meters
of material a minute. These are these are very
high-speed processes that have to be operating
with extreme levels of precision and control.
We want be able to optimize these heavily or
disrupt the current methods of manufacturing
so we approach it in a completely radical way
in the future.”
“The technique for building
batteries essentially derives
from technology that was being
used by the likes of Sony to
make video cassette tapes”
Professor David Greenwood, WMG, University of Warwick
2. WMG is fully equipped
to develop, prototype and
test lithium-ion solutions.
Its cutting-edge facility
mimics the world’s largest