Innovate UK backs project to boost EV range to 400 miles

In order to place the UK as a centre of excellence for battery development, a project to boost the range of electric vehicles (EV) to 400 miles and above has received £7m in funding from Innovate UK.

The new project, dubbed project SUNRISE, will develop enhanced battery materials that replace carbon components with silicon, while also optimising battery designs for EV use. One of the main aims of the project is to boost the driving range of these vehicles.

Project SUNRISE will be delivered by University College London (UCL), silicon materials developer Nexeon and polymer producer Synthomer. The majority of the £10m project will be funded by Innovate UK as part of the Faraday Battery Challenge – the first phase of a four-year £246m investment into UK battery technology.

“The biggest problems facing EVs – range anxiety, cost, charge time or charging station availability – are almost all related to limitations of the batteries,” Nexeon’s chief executive Dr Scott Brown said.

“Silicon anodes are now well established on the technology road maps of major automotive OEMs and cell makers, and Nexeon has received support from UK and global OEMs, several of whom will be involved in this project as it develops.”

One of the biggest barriers facing EV uptake among the public is the perceived “range anxiety” whereby consumers are dissuaded about the vehicle’s performance in relation to travel distances on a single charge.

The new Nissan Leaf, for example, has been upgraded to offer a longer range of 235 miles on a singles charge and will go on sale this month. However, the SUNRISE project will seek to boost the range of EV batteries to at least 400 miles.

To do so, the project partners will attempt to replace carbon found in battery anodes with silicon, but in a way that increases the energy density of each cell. It is believed that binding new silicon anodes with polymer will generate lower costs, better battery performance and quicker charging times.

Faraday fires up

The Faraday Challenge falls under the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund (ISCF) – a four-year investment programme to drive innovation across six key areas, as announced in the 2017 Spring Budget.

Innovate UK’s chief executive Ruth McKernan said: “The Faraday Battery Challenge is breaking new ground because it offers for the first time a co-ordinated programme of competitions across research, innovation and scale-up. It will therefore draw the very best of the UK’s world-leading research into commercial technologies, and put UK businesses at the forefront of electric vehicle battery development.”

Government-commissioned study carried out by Imperial College London and the Carbon Trust last year revealed that a combination of flexible solutions such as energy storage and demand response could save UK consumers between £17bn and £40bn through to the year 2050.

Earlier this week, plans to build a new battery facility for EVs in Warwickshire were backed by £80m in funding. The National Battery Manufacturing Development Facility will be funded by Warwick Manufacturing Group, Coventry City Council and the Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership.

Matt Mace

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie