Written evidence from Newcastle University (BEV0026)


Newcastle University

Response to the BEIS Committee inquiry on batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing

February 2023


Our submission provides an overview of areas where our academics and policy experts can support the Committee in their inquiry on batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing.


  1. About
  2. Summary
  3. Response to the consultation’s questions
  4. Specific work ongoing at Newcastle University


Professor Colin Herron would welcome the opportunity to brief the Committee on any of the University’s initiatives in more detail and provide further evidence to support the inquiry.



1.       About

a)      Newcastle University is one of the UK’s great civic, research-intensive universities. We exist for the public benefit and every day our teams are advancing knowledge, delivering the highest quality teaching, undertaking world-leading research, and providing creative solutions to global problems.

b)      The ecosystem around Newcastle University is unique with Gigafactories, an evolving ecosystem from mining to soon recycling. The North East is truly unique due to the density of battery cell manufacturers and its capability for mineral mining (lithium), precursor production, cell manufacture, pack assembly, vehicle manufacture, second life battery storage, and recycling back into primary cells. We also have the strongest collective research power outside of London.

c)       In October 2021, recognising the importance of the North East region as a burgeoning centre of battery research, innovation, skills and production, the Faraday Institution opened a regional office in Newcastle. Known as Faraday Institution North East (FINE), the office is based within Newcastle University and led by Professor Colin Herron CBE.

d)      The Faraday Institution is the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage research, skills development, market analysis, and early-stage commercialisation. It brings together research scientists and industry partners on projects with commercial potential that will reduce battery cost, weight, and volume; improve performance and reliability, and develop whole-life strategies including recycling and reuse.

e)      The North East Electric Arc is an area spanning 40 miles/70km in North East England from Northumberland to Teesside. It is on course to have the highest density of electric vehicle battery plants in Europe. Both Batteries and PEMD use cutting edge technology, train local people in the skills of tomorrow and are reviving the North East's reputation as an international energy hub. The aim is to capitalise on the opportunity to build a globally significant centre of expertise in electrification and development, bringing to bear the influence of government, local businesses, Catapults, universities and colleges to make this happen. 

f)        If successful, it is estimated the North East activity could contribute up to £7.3billion to the UK economy, while also making a meaningful contribution to the 2050 Net Zero target and levelling up.  

g)      This puts Newcastle University in a strong position to support government and key policymakers to achieve their priorities moving forward.



2.       Summary


h)      Based on actual need, in terms of UK-produced vehicles and UK-produced batteries, compared to the quantity known to be under construction, the UK’s current target of ending sales of new petrol and diesel vehicles in 2030 is unachievable.

i)         The UK needs 90GWh for 2030 car manufacture and the current known capacity will deliver 14GWh. It takes five years from concept to battery full volume and there are only seven years left. Full volume means a factory, a certified product, a certified process, and a skilled workforce. But the challenge is not just batteries, it is the whole electric architecture of a vehicle, as all component parts are required at huge volumes. The UK automotive industry will need to import 76GWh of batteries at a cost of billions of pounds without a UK-based battery supply.

j)         Climate commitments provide both a challenge and an opportunity to not only grow the UK economy but to do it using an existing industrial legacy with unique assets. Benefits can be achieved through a post-industrial revolution, built on the assets of the previous industrial revolution and inspired by science and innovation. To realise the benefits, we must further coordinate UK strategic activity with a focus in specific regions where activity has already started, underpinned by investment in research, engineering, manufacturing, and skills. Using the transport sector, and specifically using cars as an example, the UK must transition 33m cars to zero emission vehicles; globally the figure is 1.5bn.


k)       The UK has the following opportunities:

  1. Maximise long term economic benefits of the mass transition away from the internal combustion engine
  2. Acquire national and international recognition as an electrification centre of excellence
  3. Develop a delivery model for Regional/UK activity
  4. Deliver appropriately skilled people in level 2 – level 8 jobs


l)         For a period of 12 months, the North East region has been developing a battery ecosystem to support what was a planned 60GWh of lithium-ion cell production. The news of Britishvolt going into administration has reduced this to a projected 30GWh, provided Nissan produce the vehicles requiring the cells. This battery ecosystem is based in Newcastle University; it undertakes its own research, and hosts the North East Battery Alliance (NEBA), an alliance of all five regional universities, the public sector, the Faraday Institution and representatives of the nascent battery system from mining to recycling.

m)    Reinforced by the first operational li ion battery plant, which opened in Sunderland 10 years ago, the North East region is a major knowledge asset and pathfinder for the UK in battery innovation. In the decade since the Envision-AESC plant opened, a great deal of learning has taken place, which is reflected in the evidence given.



3.       Our response to the consultation’s questions


  1. Is there enough UK vehicle manufacturing demand in the UK to support Gigafactories?


n)      Current estimates indicate that there is enough UK vehicle manufacturing demand to support Gigafactories if the car companies retain car/van making in the UK and if they want to source batteries within the UK, such as the Nissan/AESC agreement.

o)      Using the current level of car manufacture (1.5 million) and an average battery size of 60kWh, if fully electric, would have a current battery requirement of 90GWh. What does this mean? A good size Gigaplant such as the envision-AESC which is under construction, or the failed Britishvolt plant, are sized at 30GWh. From this it is clear there is a demand for a base level of three Gigaplants in the UK.  If we add light commercial vehicles (80,000) and buses the number increases to four.

p)      With this in mind, this leaves about 1 million vehicles with no battery supply from the UK. At present, uncertainty hangs over the following:

  1. BMW with their recent announcement to move the electric mini to China
  2. Toyota with no declared car for Burniston
  3. Stellantis (Vauxhall) supply not identified
  4. Jaguar Land Rover supply unknown
  5. Aston Martin and Lotus have indicated they would have used Britishvolt


q)      Note: This does not include light commercial vehicles, large commercial vehicles, buses, trains and energy storage.


r)        What do we know about car making in the UK?


s)       Using SMMT data, as detailed below (Figure1), we can see that until 2019 the UK made on average 1.5 million cars and 80,000 light commercial vehicles.

Chart, bar chart

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t)        Figure 1: SMMT UK car manufacturing 1972-2019


u)      Key assumptions on powertrain going forward:


  1. All cars will be fully EV post 2030 due to the observed direction of the car makers
  2. The majority of cars will be full EV post 2030
  3. All cars will be full EV post 2035



Assumptions on batteries going forward

v)       We also know that the UK car industry is owned by foreign companies who are reacting to EU and UK regulations, as they are the main markets for the vehicles. We also know that due to Brexit new rules apply through the Rules of Origin, which focus on the battery and come into force in 2027. In short, decisions are currently being made in boardrooms outside the UK on the future of the UK car industry which is more focused due to the additional consideration of batteries.

w)     There is currently enough vehicle manufacture demand and increased demand will come from other sectors and applications.




  1. Will the UK have sufficient battery production supplies by 2025 and 2030 respectively to meet the government phase-out plans for petrol and diesel vehicles?


x)       At present, the UK does not have sufficient battery production supplies to meet the government’s ambitions, unless we import from Europe. The demand for batteries is determined by the type of vehicle and its capability to meet a “significant” zero-emissions distance which has not yet been defined.

y)       Cars will be in one of two formats. A Plug in Hybrid EV (PHEV) or full Battery EV (BEV). A PHEV is not a preferred vehicle for the manufacturers as it is in effect a traditional vehicle, and a battery vehicle in one body which is expensive to make and service.

z)       Future PHEV supply chain requirement: If we assume 50 miles as a ball park range for Zero Emission capability and in ‘EV mode’ the performance is 4 miles per kWh, that requires a 12.5 kWh battery. Allowing for winter capacity drop off a figure of 15kWh is appropriate. If all UK made cars (1.5m) are PHEV with a 15kWh battery and supplied from within the UK, then the battery supply chain requirement will be – 22.5GWh. Or one Gigaplant to supply all the industry assuming all are happy to use the same supplier.

aa)  Future BEV supply chain requirement: If all vehicles go to full BEV with a 50kWh battery and supplied from within the UK, then the battery supply chain requirement will be – 75GWh. The trend is to go larger at 60/70kWh in which case we would require 90GWh/105GWh (Figure 2) for cars only. Based on market trends we believe that the market will go straight to full BEV.


bb)  From the above we can assume that the requirement is between 22.5GWh (one Gigaplant) and realistically 90GWh (three Gigaplants).


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cc)   Figure 2: Potential demand for UK produced batteries


dd)  What do we actually know is being installed in the way of capacity?


ee)  Currently envision AESC is installing 12GWh in Sunderland. Britishvolt had announced the intention to install 30GWh in three stages. It is also an assumption that Nissan will move all 500,000 capacity to BEV and envision AESC will supply that capacity i.e. 60kWh x 500,000 = 30GWh.

ff)      To hit the Net Zero targets, an engineering approach has been applied to show what has to happen to meet deadlines. It takes three to four years from announcement to a battery plant being in full volume with trained staff.






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gg)  Figure 3: An illustration of the activities required to achieve 2030 with UK batteries

hh)  The above diagram (Figure 3) assumes 1.5m cars at 60kWh and what is required to achieve 2030. Note: This is a guide as the actual market has not yet been confirmed.


ii)       If the UK is to be self-sufficient in batteries for cars alone in 2030 we need 90GWh of confirmed installation by 2027 at the latest and currently we have 14 GWh. Not taking into account any further announcements by Nissan/AESC.


jj)       What else needs to happen?

  1. Many people will have to be trained
  2. A supply chain created
  3. Net Zero manufacturing
  4. Optimal costing to ensure business viability
  5. Assessment of other sector requirements


kk)   As stated previously to supply the whole UK car industry from the UK we will need between 22.5GWh and 90GWh with currently 2GWh installed and a 12GWh plant physically under construction.


ll)       In terms of value 1 kWh = circa £100 so 1 GWh = £100m product value plus salaries and supply chain values. A 30GWh plant produces about £3bn of product value and puts £100m in salaries into mainly the local economy.


mm)                       Based on the current evidence the UK in 2023 has no possibility of achieving its goals with domestic batteries. In the extreme scenario where all the car plants closed except Nissan then we would have enough supply, but the car industry would be reduced to one plant. The viability of that plant would also be brought into question as the volumes may not sustain a UK automotive supply base.







  1. Is UK-based battery production necessary to support the manufacture of electric vehicles in the UK?


nn)  The question of ‘necessary’ will be addressed first in a technical manner then economically.

oo)  The battery or sub-units can be imported like any other component and indeed Nissan did import a specific battery, as have BMW. Therefore, a UK-based battery production base is not required to support the manufacture of EV, but at risk is the whole car industry.

pp)  From an economic perspective, the UK would benefit from becoming a production only base for batteries; however, if we do not develop a mechanism to maximise the economic potential, the higher value jobs will be located elsewhere. The UK has invested well in research to create new chemistries and potential recycling methods for a UK battery industry. If the UK becomes a series of production sites, the short-term economic benefits have to be seen against the long-term benefits of being a global player in the battery market.



  1. What are the risks to the UK automotive industry of not establishing sufficient battery manufacturing capacity in the UK?


qq)  The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) and the Faraday Challenge have set out in their own publications (as have others) the economic value of the UK automotive industry a summary has been selected and presented here. It is realistic to say that the whole vehicle industry set out here is at risk if the volumes fall below a sustainable level.


rr)     The key risks are:


  1. The economy - The UK motor vehicle manufacturing industry contributed £16.6 billion to the economy in 2018, 0.8% of the whole economy’s output, and 8.5% of manufacturing output.


  1. Legislation/ regulation - In parallel, the UK has withdrawn from the European Union (EU), and as such will have to conform to the rules of origin. From 2027, 55% of the value of a car must be from the EU and/or the UK with an EU or UK battery pack. In addition to this, 65% of the value of the materials in a product must be from the EU and/or the UK.


  1. Employment - As the ban on any form of Internal Combustion Engines (2035) comes into force, some of the supply chain to Nissan will start to disappear as indeed will the Nissan engine plant. Nissan powertrain has 600 direct staff and with normal ratio x4 in supply base – loss of 3000 jobs. As will the engine plants of all the other car makers. The UK produces on average 2.5m engines a year which will fall along with the component suppliers if they do not diversify.



ss)   Solutions to mitigate this risk


tt)      Newcastle University working with the North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) and the North East Battery Alliance (NEBA) and Driving the Electric Revolution (DER) to bring all the challenges into one organisation.


uu)  The proposal being developed is for an Electrification Process Innovation Centre (EPIC) to bring all aspects of electrification into one delivery organisation covering skills, education, and research both pure and industrial.



  1. What other domestic end uses for batteries would provide a market for UK battery production?


vv)   The Electricity System Operator (ESO) arm of National Grid in the UK has outlined four different pathways for the future of energy in the country in its Future Energy Scenarios (FES) 2021 document, detailing the transformation of the energy mix and flexibility, the residential sector and the transport sector. Among key messages to emerge from the report were that holistic energy market reform will be needed to drive flexibility, with as much as 13GW of electricity storage needed by 2030 to enable huge growth in renewables. 

ww) Should the full capability of smart grids be implemented with every home that can accommodate Vehicle to Grid (V2G or sometimes called V2X) at a value of 5kWh which is the practical minimum then the demand could be for 20m homes could be 100GWh.

xx)   There is also a need for HGV, Buses, trains, marine etc. Newcastle University ran one of the UK’s first V2G trails with Nissan and the local District Network Operator (DNO). The current head of Innovate for V2G trials took the post at Innovate following completion of a PhD at Newcastle on infrastructure.

yy)   A secondary point is that the future of our national security regarding power will require batteries so it is arguable that we should have our own supply. The UK is moving to renewable energy which in the case of wind generation is not a constant and will require significant battery backup. Energy storage in homes will also provide a secondary level of security for the grid. See next section for more detail.



  1. Does the UK have a sufficient supply of critical materials to support vehicle battery production?


zz)   Independent studies by the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK and Innovate UK, supported by KTN & Warwick Manufacturing Group, and authored by E4tech, have predicted that the electrification of transport has the potential to create a £5.2bn supply chain opportunity for battery materials.

aaa)                       Newcastle University is actively engaged with Weardale Mining (Lithium) and the two recently announced Lithium Hydroxide plants on Teesside. The UK has world leading research and industry in this area resulting in multiple opportunities for UK companies.

bbb)                       Newcastle University has several years’ experience working with both the local Gigaplant and the Nissan battery assembly facilities. Currently there are UK companies supplying the nascent battery market and there are those which could supply the market. It is proposed that a centre aimed at providing scale-up and translational innovation (for materials) is required to enable the rapid creation of new supply chains in the chemical sector to supply this growing market.


ccc)                        The UK’s battery cell production is ready to expand, building on a strong existing base. Specific opportunities include:

  1. Anode materials (which use needle coke produced in the UK) which can also be processed, adding significant further value.
  2. Nickel, cobalt and lithium processing (as well as further lithium exploration) can be expanded in the UK. It will, however, need additional permits and investments in new processes and large plants to allow it to compete. Lithium mining and processing is currently in the exploration and construction stage.
  3. Recycling of scrap and ‘urban mining’ of product such as copper is also under development.
  4. The UK is also capable of manufacturing cathode materials – another critical and high-value component of the battery cell.
  5. Access to low carbon electricity which is an essential requirement to meet Net Zero targets. The UK is already committed to delivering some of the cleanest, lowest carbon energy in Europe. As exhibited at the Northumberland site next to the Norway Hydro Interconnector and Nissans published EV36Zero micro grid.



  1. Do we have the skills in the workforce required for the production of batteries? If not, what needs to be done?


ddd)                       The UK does not have the current skills capacity necessary for the future scenarios of battery production. The future skills challenge related to batteries production does not only impact automotive industries but also the wider green industries agenda. One of the major issues is that 75% of the required workforce will need skills at Level 1 to Level 5 (see Table below).

eee)                       SMMT figures show that 182,000 people will be directly employed in manufacturing and some 780,000 in total across the wider automotive industry. In a recently conducted Skills Survey (Dec. 2022), 54% of companies report that they find it difficult to recruit for these roles.

fff)    Another immediate challenge is that the whole EV manufacturing base is struggling to find sufficient numbers of properly trained staff (which it is feared will lead to reduced productivity and greater inflation, thereby hampering international competitiveness). Numbers of staff in the materials supply chain are again not large due to the process nature.



Job Types

Battery Manufacture

Typical employment activities undertaken

% split &
qualification level

Production Operators

Material handling, machine loading, machine unloading, pack assembly, logistics, module/pack assembly, inspection

Level 1-3


Equipment Technicians

Machine service, machine maintenance, optimising machine performance, quality control, reviewing cost & delivery

Level 3-5


Engineers & Senior Staff

Facility engineers, process/production engineers, IT and data management, achievement of KPIs, legislation checks

Level 6 and up


Quality Technicians

In-process controls, confirmation of specifications (parts and supply), performance evaluation, assessment of defects

Level 4


Quality Engineers

In-process controls, confirmation of part /supply specification, performance evaluation, defect analysis

Level 6


Management & HQ functions

HR, finance, purchasing, IT and data management

Level 6 and up



ggg)                       The skills challenge

  1. Basic skills: Whilst there will need to be a focus on battery manufacturing related skills (see below), it is worth highlighting that employers and training providers are currently observing a decline in basic skills. Over recent years, there is an increased tendency of employees not meeting the skills requirements at Level 2 when entering the workforce. An additional challenge is that a greater proportion of those than ever are at sub-level 1 (i.e. primary level maths and English). Consequently, this group of employees are required to undergo additional skills training prior to being enrolled onto a Level 2 apprenticeship.
  2. Skills needed within industry are changing at an accelerated pace. Within Automotive, there is broad recognition that as much technological change will take place in the next ten years as has happened over the last 100 years.
  3. Skills drift is a recognised concern within advanced manufacturing. For example, what typically had been a Level 2 role is changing as the equipment people are working with moves to HMI touch screens, conditioning monitoring, etc. – this means the role is now closer to Level 2.5 rather than a Level 2 role. The same principle applies for roles at Level 3 to 6. In other words, each job role will now require employees to have skills from the next level in order to succeed in their job.
  4. The move towards battery manufacturing brings the impacted industries closer to the chemical production and food processing. Over the last five years, stakeholders, including industry and skills/training providers have been focusing on developing qualifications. These have only been launched in the last 18 months and therefore are not widely distributed enough to have made a positive impact on addressing the skills challenge. Industries have, however, recognised the importance of these qualifications and training offers in addressing the future challenge. With regards to apprenticeships, the Level 3 Battery Manufacturing Technician is now accelerated and should be submitted for validation and approval in March 2023.


hhh)                       Possible solutions

  1. Building on the success of the Emergent Skills Project (funded by the Gatsby Foundation) focusing on Vehicle Electrification, Faraday Institution is now funding the next iteration based around battery manufacturing.
  2. Newcastle University is leading a new institute to support training and skills development in the field of Power Electronics, Machines and Drives (PEMD), funded by the Driving the Electric Revolution Challenge, delivered by Innovate UK for UK Research and Innovation. The Institute of Electrification and Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (IESAM) will be addressing industry needs by developing a flexible, high-quality PEMD training pipeline from Level 3 to Level 7 in the North East. This initiative brings together the North East Institute of Technology, led by New College Durham and key regional higher and further education providers. IESAM’s curriculum team will be creating PEMD content to enrich T-level, Higher Technical Qualifications as well as Advanced and Degree Apprenticeship programmes. While the focus is initially on PEMD, the institute’s model can easily be expanded to capture the wider electrification skills set, including batteries.




Professor Colin Herron would be delighted to discuss the contents of this response with the BEIS Committee in further detail, or provide any additional evidence which would support your work.