Podcast: UK Battery Supply Chains (with UK Government)
On August 25th, the Critical Minerals Association hosted its second breakfast chat webinar on 'UK Battery Supply Chains.' We were privileged to welcome:
Roskill - David Merriman, Battery and Electric Vehicle Materials Manager
Faraday Battery Challenge - Jacqui Murray, Deputy Director
UK Government Department for International Trade - Mark Smith, Mining Sector Manager
BritishVolt - Isobel Sheldon, Chief Strategy Officer
Mark Smith, Mining Sector Manager
UK Government Department for International Trade
The UK has committed to deliver net zero by 2050 and this will require a shift. Clean Growth is fundamentally behind everything we do.
We know the supply of critical minerals is essential to deliver the Clean Growth agenda and we’re aware that delivering these ambitions will require considerably more extraction/ different types of metals and minerals. The challenge we have as a mining team is to ensure we focus on the right areas and are consistent with the UK's wider Industrial Strategy and policy ambitions
While there’s no formal UK critical minerals strategy, work is being done across various government departments.
As a mining team we are looking at where we should be involved/ engaged with the UK supply chain and in which commodities. Up until a year ago we were fairly commodity agnostic – we are now focusing more on these critical minerals, which I expect will only come into greater focus following Covid-19 supply chain resilience work
The Future of Mobility is a key area for us and we want to put the UK at the forefront of design and manufacturing of machines and vehicles
To facilitate the development of the UK’s battery production/electric vehicles sector our approach is to target export promotion on Grand Challenge areas, attract FDI into the UK to build the UK supply chain, promote the Clean Growth agenda internationally, address the issues around sourcing, be a champion/thought leader around environmental & social governance (ESG), and create an international trading framework
We have been considering how we can take into account life cycle assessment as an additional lever to demonstrate that the UK is well positioned to lead on new technology developments
We’re looking at the Cornwall region, working closely with the council and this aligns with the UK Government's Levelling Up agenda so we’re looking at how regions can benefit from initiatives around the Industrial Strategy and new technologies
Export – we work closely with the Foreign & Commonwealth Office/ Department for International Development, strengthening bilateral trade relations through FTA agreements, working with allies with critical mineral strategies
There's a lot going– we have to understand where we as a Government/ Department should be focusing to support the development of the battery manufacturing sector
Jacqui Murray, Deputy Director
Faraday Battery Challenge
The Faraday battery challenge is a team of people looking at how we can edge the probability of success in the UK for batteries - we’re trying to bring that team UK approach
Faraday Battery Challenge has sponsored 130 companies and 22 universities – the money doesn’t grow an industry, it grows the skills and a lot of smaller exciting projects that can develop – this makes the UK an exciting place for innovation – you may find some superstars that can help lift off a project and make it successful. What we can create is a huge amount of intellectual property and a huge amount of spin off.
What we're doing is learning very rapidly about what we do need. If the Government does step in, it does so from a position of knowledge and understanding. Without someone owning the problem in the middle you can’t make this transition as quickly.
The Circular Economy is incredibly important because it helps reduce the environmental impact of a product. The more extractive and refining processes you have in the UK, the more recycling you can have.
David Merriman, Battery and Electric Vehicle Materials Manager
There is going to need to be a concerted effort to source all of these raw materials in significant quantities over years to 2035 to meet these targets and keep pace with quite an aggressive policy shift
It's still relatively ambitious to get the raw materials infrastructure needed within the UK market – we need to look at how the UK market is going to develop - there will be space for domestic construction of critical raw materials production at different stages of the battery supply chain within the UK market - but there is always going to be slight reliance in getting materials from abroad and importing these at competitive market rates. Reliance on imports is expected to be the longer term outlook for a number of raw materials in the UK
There will have to be relationships between UK companies and operators of foreign entities/ mines around the world to secure these supply chains – either through private investment forming offtake agreements, direct investment in equity or potentially a public sources if this is seen as an area of great importance for the UK Government
For battery-quality lithium carbonate/ lithium hydroxide you need a regular and high purity supply of these materials and this requires a regular and well-regulated supply chain with a great deal of testing and product qualification for battery manufacturers - this is something that will take time to develop within the UK
There need to be factors that put the UK above and beyond its competitors. At the moment the UK is behind the Asian manufacturers so there’s going to have to be a lot of catch up
Isobel Sheldon, Chief Strategy Officer
The UK has an extremely strong applied research system in the UK – we want to see these innovations commercialised in the UK
Site location – BritishVolt has signed an MOU with Welsh Government & is working on the site due diligence. If the facility cannot be delivered by the middle of 2023 then it’s no good. The Gigafactory will be the 4th largest building in the UK – there are not many places in the UK where this can be built. The site has a good access point to a power station & land for solar panels.
Support of the Government is critical – it enables team to move quickly and act toward preparedness. If we don’t have government support the incentive for a business to do this on its own back is lower. We need to engage with the UK government in encouraging our facility to get built and to be looking at upstream supply chains where additional value can be captured for UK plc
We want to be the greenest manufacturer of batteries in the world - taking carbon and risk out of the supply chain will be critical moving forward. The industry needs to work towards reducing cobalt and eventually eliminate it in battery technology - to keep conflict minerals out as much as possible.
We as a company need to ensure that we retain competitiveness by being more vertically integrated with the supply chain, looking at upstream processes from cell manufacturing
Unless we take these steps, there is an existential threat to the UK automotive industry - you will build future car plants where you can get batteries from and you will build your batteries if you can vertically integrate and you will only do this if you have access to green, carbon free and low cost energy. These have to come together at the right time to ensure the UK automotive industry has sustainability behind it