Written evidence from Vertical Aerospace (BEV0023)

Batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing

Vertical Aerospace

  1. Vertical Aerospace (Vertical) welcomes the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Select Committee’s inquiry into batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing.


  1. Vertical is the UK’s only manufacturer of an all-electric passenger-carrying vertical take-off and landing (eVTOL) aircraft. Based in Bristol, our 250+ engineers are pioneering electric flight. We are building and testing an aircraft that will be the first zero operating emissions flight that many people take. Vertical is one of the leading firms in the world for this eVTOL technology. Our $5.6bn pre-order book is the largest by value of any eVTOL company globally. 90% of these pre-order are exports. We are seeking certification from the UK Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) for our aircraft by the middle of the decade. Success will help connect communities isolated by poor infrastructure, support decarbonisation of the transport system and provide the UK with a huge green export opportunity.  eVTOLs will create a cleaner, quieter and safer alternative to helicopters with a new form of travel.


  1. Vertical is not an automotive company, yet a high-performance lithium-ion battery system is essential to the success of our product. We have recently secured funding from the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI) for a project with University College London to create a safe, high-performance and lightweight battery system for our aircraft and other potential applications in aerospace and other industries. The base cells we are using in our batteries are made in Taiwan, as the manufacturer meets our specific performance and safety requirements. Should we start scaling the production of our aircraft in the UK, co-locating cell manufacturing with our battery production facility would make assembly simpler, reduce cost, improve logistics, enable efficient cell recycling and help limit life-cycle emissions. It would also bring economic benefits to the UK – with new jobs and the retention of IP at the cutting edge of battery technology. You see this currently playing out in the automotive sector, where cell manufacturers are expanding in or near key European markets with large automotive industries, like Germany. Vertical, therefore, has a clear interest in seeing the UK build a sovereign battery capability.


  1. Like all transportation, aerospace is experiencing a surge in electrification. This is not just for primary propulsion uses, like eVTOLs, but also in traditional, commercial aviation. The newest long-haul aircraft are increasingly using more battery power for on-board systems, while some manufacturers are looking towards hybrid aircraft as a route to decarbonising aviation. Demand for batteries in the aerospace sector is, therefore, only going to increase.


  1. Beyond this direct opportunity, for eVTOLs, safety and regulatory requirements will mean manufacturers and operators will only accept limited degradation to the battery’s performance before they are replaced. This also means our batteries will have considerable second life applications beyond our aircraft – in aerospace, other transport or elsewhere. Success in eVTOL or aerospace batteries for the UK thus has positive effects beyond aerospace across the wider battery industry.


  1. The production of batteries for the automotive sector is now dominated by a handful of companies from a small number of countries, largely in Asia. The UK was too late to the game. Yet aerospace is trailing the automotive sector on electrification. While the cells we need already exist, no battery system on the market currently meets the characteristics needed for our aircraft. This presents an opportunity for the UK – the development of the light, high-performance and safe battery systems needed for primary propulsion in aerospace is not yet in the hands of any one country or company. To capitalise on this, the UK Government should:


    1. Ensure aerospace battery capabilities – both manufacturing and recycling - are captured in any vision or strategy for developing an industrial battery base in the UK;
    2. Proactively identify companies pioneering the cell technology used in the aerospace industry with a view to incentivising production in the UK with decisions in the next 12-24 months;
    3. Include aerospace use cases in the scope for the UK’s strategic fund for battery R&D – the Automotive Transformation Fund; and
    4. Ensure there is an appropriate regulatory regime – and a regulator with the right technical capabilities - to manage the certification and safety oversight of electric aerospace systems.


  1. The global market for eVTOLs is estimated to be worth $1.2tn by 2050 (Advanced Air Mobility Annual Market Outlook, ADS, 2021). The batteries required to power these aircraft are currently being developed and will have applications beyond aerospace. Vertical is one of the few manufacturers in the world with a credible chance of being a first market entrant. The UK Government should act now to capitalise on the opportunity presented by this third revolution in flight.


  1. Vertical would be happy to provide more detailed evidence at the request of the committee.

February 2023