Written evidence from WAE Technologies Limited (BEV0035)

Executive Summary:


  1. WAE (formerly Williams Advanced Engineering) is a technology and engineering services business based in Grove, Oxfordshire. It specializes in electrification and battery technology, aerodynamics and thermodynamics, performance, and low-volume manufacturing. The company is 100% owned by Fortescue Metals Group and has grown significantly with the acquisition, employing around 600 predominantly engineering experts.


  1. WAE has a joint venture with Unipart Manufacturing Group called Hyperbat, which is the UK's leading manufacturer of high-performance electric vehicle battery packs. The company aims to support the UK in reducing its carbon footprint by becoming the UK leader in high-voltage battery systems.


  1. Our response to the questions in this paper conclude that the demand for battery production in the UK is present for core/higher volume vehicle assembly and for smaller high-performance and luxury brands. However, there is not enough installed cell production capability in the UK to meet the demand. The UK government needs to provide support and secure critical raw materials to maximize the opportunity.


Introduction to WAE (Previously Williams Advanced Engineering).


  1. WAE exists to accelerate the advantage and impact of our clients, head quartered in Grove, Oxfordshire.


  1. WAE is technology and engineering services business, applying world-class technical innovation, engineering, testing, and manufacturing services to deliver energy efficient performance.


  1. Our people are experts in electrification and battery technology, aerodynamics and thermodynamics, performance, and specialist low-volume manufacturing. We operate across a wide range of sectors from automotive and motorsport, aerospace and defence, rail, off highway, and energy. We work in close collaboration with our customers and partners to meet the key engineering challenges of the 21st century – focusing on mobility, energy storage sustainability and efficiency.


  1. We currently employ ~600 people, predominantly engineers and we are 100% owned by Fortescue Metals Group (One of the world’s largest Iron Ore miners). Our acquisition was motivated by their ambition to accelerate the decarbonisation of the mining sector. This change of ownership has generated significant investment and growth in WAE, and we are currently developing our global industrialisation strategy to satisfy the growing need for battery systems to our expanding client base.


  1. In this document, we also refer to Hyperbat; this is a joint venture between WAE and Unipart Manufacturing Group that was formed with a mission to manufacture innovative high-voltage battery solutions, optimised for high-performance and specialist applications.


  1. Hyperbat is the UK’s leading manufacturer of high-performance electric vehicle battery packs and aims to become the UK leader in high-voltage battery systems, supporting UK plc by growing the UK battery technology supply chain. Hyperbat’s UK battery manufacturing capability will bridge the gap between low-volume prototype build and high-volume hybrid and electric vehicle production. 


Committee Questions:



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

a)      Yes, there is enough demand for gigafactories for core / higher volume vehicle assembly, and for the smaller, high performance / luxury brands which make up a significant portion of the UK Automotive DNA. Our answer is based upon all the UK vehicles manufacturers planning to have a fully or hybrid electrified product line up as next generation vehicles are rolled out.

b)      WAE assessment is:

        1. Nissan UK already has a strategically linked gigafactory (Envision AESC) to support its requirements from cell through to pack assembly - 238k vehicles per annum
        2. JLR produce ~200k vehicles per annum, and do not have a strategically linked cell source, yet will generate significant GWh demand when they become a higher EV mix business. They are building a dedicated assembly plant at Hams Hall, but again, not planning to produce cells there.
        3. BMW Mini currently import battery packs into the UK from EU to meet their production requirements in Oxford. This plant currently ships ~175k vehicles per annum.
        4. Stellantis are investing in Ellesmere Port and Luton, to be suitable to manufacture next generation electric light commercial vehicles. Luton plans to manufacture up to 100k eLCVs
        5. Toyota are currently producing ~150k vehicles at the Burnaston plant, and are producing ~250k engines per annum in Deeside.


c)       At present of these higher volume vehicle manufacturers, it is only JLR that does not have significant battery manufacturing capability strategically linked.

d)      Due to the significant interest to WAE & Hyperbat business case/ strategy is the lack of cell supply chain availability for the high performance / high luxury marques such as:

        1. Lotus - ~1700 (Vehicles per annum)
        2. Aston Martin - ~6000
        3. McLaren - ~1500
        4. Bentley - ~ 15000
        5. Rolls-Royce Motors - ~6000

e)      These marques do not always align technically to the same types of mass-produced battery and cell products as the 3 large producers outlined previously. They do not equate to giga scale demand per brand. WAE & Hyperbat has been created, with UK govt. support in its inception, via APC6, to deliver a flexible facility, capable of delivering battery systems to niche vehicle manufacturers; it does not currently plan to move into cell manufacturing.

f)        With rules of origin considerations in place, the niche brands stand to suffer from significant financial penalties when shipping to the EU. This issue appears to have gone broadly unaddressed leaving a challenging multi-million-pound risk sitting against electrification programmes; whereas their competitors in Europe, should they fail to find appropriate technology in the EU block, will only have the concern of losing competitiveness in the UK market.


  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?

g)       It is unclear. Presently, there is not enough installed UK cell producing capability to enable the commensurate vehicle development programmes, notwithstanding the lack of security of critical metals and minerals in place in support of this generates a significant roadblock for the most critical element of the system. Industry general states that cell manufacturing plants take around 5 years to be operational from initiation. Action must be taken, to maximise the UK opportunity with fit for purpose government support, and to secure appropriate raw materials and resources competitively from overseas.


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

h)      If the UK wishes to meet its overarching goal of reducing its carbon footprint, this is necessary. Additionally, as engine production figures reduce, it will be critical to retain existing jobs.

i)        For high volume vehicle producers, a certain yes, and for any other vehicle producer they would be preferred heavily to be nearby for logistical and cost reasons, localisation is a focus area.

j)        Battery systems are large, high value components, the incentive of manufacturing the rest of the vehicles, and associated components would diminish significantly, due to the scale and cost of the component.

k)       Nissan strategy underlines this point in the UK with their battery plant being on the same site at their vehicle assembly plant. Looking further afield there are similar comparisons to be drawn with BMW in their Munich facilities, and further afield with their announced expansion of battery assembly to support their battery assembly plant in South Carolina.


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

l)        Simplistically, failure to establish at a macro level would mean:

        1. Higher dependence on imports
        2. Missed economic opportunities.
        3. Reduced environmental benefits.
        4. Lack of control over the supply chain.

m)    BMW Mini recently announced the withdrawal of the next generation Electric Mini to China; it is understood from recent press that this may be reversed due to government intervention, though not confirmed.

n)      The UK has not been able to attract inward investment of any significant electrification players; with companies such as Ford, who have a rich heritage in UK engine manufacturing seemingly setting up their next generation battery system assembly in mainland Europe. Both Bentley and Rolls Royce, as the next largest car makers in the UK have not announced any intent to localise pack supply.

o)      It is plausible therefore that a lack of cohesive end to end supply chain readiness in the UK for cell supply, without punitive risks shipping to key markets will end in large shifts in manufacturing locations to derisk significant logistical and commercial risks.


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

p)      Battery Systems have a wide range of uses. Given the large scale changes and need for energy independence, underlined by current energy cost escalation, Stationary Energy Storage, which could be used to store green energy.

q)      Additionally, grid balancing applications to manage local bottle necks due to increased requirements of increased EV adoption is likely to become appropriate. Both points are explored in detail by the national grids “Future Energy Scenarios” paper.

r)       The off highway sector is also a critical area which requires focus; with businesses such as Cummins, Caterpillar and JCB all present in the UK.


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

s)       WAE & Hyperbat are designers and producers of battery packs, and therefore we are not focused on the extended supply chain of raw materials into Cells. Most of our information comes from engagement into cell suppliers so would defer to them.


  1. How ready are UK vehicle producers for the EU–UK Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA) rules of origin (ROO) phasing in from 2024?

t)        WAE have relationships with several UK vehicle producers, and there are large concerns across the board due to a lack of available EU/UK capacity to service their needs.

u)      There appear to be concerns also around supply chain readiness to support ROO requirements from UK and Europe based suppliers, with a lack of defined strategy to become fully compliant within the timeframe specified.

v)       Currently the installed European cell manufacturing capacity is reported to be 60GWH (McKinsey), and the theoretical demand for the UK alone is 25GWH from 2025 (Faraday.ac), with the EU target being 900GWH. It seems unlikely that the UK demand will be supported locally in any meaningful quantity, and the increased requirements of 2027 will be of even greater concern.


  1. What can the UK learn from investment in other countries in the establishment of gigafactories?


Whilst the size of subsidies will not be comparable to economies like the US, the UK would benefit long term by providing greater incentives to OEMs with a historical UK presence to invest further in next generation EV and battery production. Short term impact of Brexit appears to have discouraged OEMs such as Ford and Stellantis from investing more in facilities in the UK, choosing instead to invest in facilities in mainland Europe.


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

w)     The UK has a skilled workforce in the automotive industry, and some work has already been done to retrain those personnel to operate on complex high-voltage assembly. This will be an area which requires focussed investment and standardisation as the growth comes through


  1. Will the cost of UK batteries be competitive compared with batteries produced elsewhere?


x)       UK battery industry will face significant challenges reaching a cost competitive position if a localised supply chain cannot be properly established ahead of regulatory requirements such as ROO. If manufacturers are forced to rely on a 100% local supply chain in the UK, they will not be able to leverage the same economies of scale as EU, US, or Asia based competitors. The right balance of localised value content whilst enabling a competitive product must be achieved.

y)       This applies particularly for battery cells, which only Nissan in the UK have a clear localised strategy for. Other passenger car and off-highway OEMs including JLR, Stellantis, Bentley, Mini, Cummins, and Caterpillar do not have a clearly defined strategy

z)       The same economies of scale challenge impacts right across battery pack production, from commodity electronics up to pack assembly facilities & equipment.