Government invests £30m in electric and hydrogen vehicle studies

The government will invest £30 million in research into electric and hydrogen vehicle production, investment minister Gerry Grimstone has announced.

Around £9.4m will be spent on 22 studies, including one that will explore the feasibility of establishing a low-carbon lithium hydroxide plant in St Austell, Cornwall. Lithium is a key ingredient of battery cells used in electric vehicles.

A separate study will investigate the potential of a lightweight-magnet plant in Cheshire, and another will look into the suitability of a lightweight hydrogen fuel tank – developed by Loughborough-based Haydale Composite Solutions – in production hydrogen fuel cell cars and vans.

A further £22.6m has been committed to the government-backed Faraday Institution, which will explore battery safety and the causes of battery-cell fires, the future of solid-state batteries and the sustainability of such technology by recycling and reusing old battery units.

The Faraday Institution will also examine how EV batteries could be used on the energy grid, a long-anticipated technology sometimes referred to as vehicle-to-vehicle (V2V). This would allow the national grid to borrow electricity from EVs that have been plugged in to charge, helping to ease pressure on the system at times of peak demand.

“We have set an ambitious target to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030,” said Grimstone. “To support that, it is crucial we invest in research so we can power ahead with the shift to electric vehicles as we build back greener from the pandemic. 

“The world-leading research announced today showcases the very best of British innovation and it will support all stages of the automotive supply chain to make the switch to electric vehicles – from developing batteries, to exploring how to recycle them.”

The government claims the research will lead to improved performance in electric and hydrogen vehicles, and could support the creation of new jobs in the automotive sector. It says investment in research and development could grow to 2.4% of GDP by 2027.

The sale of new petrol- and diesel-engined cars is set to be banned in 2030. With battery-electric and hybrid vehicles set to take over the market over the next decade, industry chiefs have outlined a UK-based battery production facility as a priority. Britishvolt is due to open the first gigafactory in St Athan, Wales, in 2023, while the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre in Coventry has been established to help attract a similar facility to the Midlands.