Electric vehicles will play an important role in establishing a sustainable future, but first, battery production must be updated so that it is environmentally friendly. Britishvolt provides an example of what this might look like with their new, Northumberland-based Gigaplant.
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Batteries Give Hope to Tackling Transport Emissions
The Paris Agreement, which came into force at the end of 2016, outlined that in order to avert the worst effects of climate change and to ensure a livable planet, the world must prevent temperatures from rising by more than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels. To do this, we need to reduce current emissions by 45% by 2030 to reach the goal of net zero by 2050. Unfortunately, six years after the agreement came into effect, we are failing to reduce emissions at the pace needed to meet these goals.
All industries must make significant steps toward decarbonizing their activities. This is particularly important for the world’s biggest polluters. Transport accounts for one-fifth of global carbon emissions, and an average passenger vehicle emits roughly 4.6 metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. Transitioning to electric vehicles offers the opportunity to drastically cut the emissions of the sector and help the world get on track to meet the goals of the Paris Agreement.
While electric vehicles do not emit greenhouse gases, they have come under scrutiny due to the carbon-emitting processes involved in battery production. Therefore, to ensure that our shift towards electric vehicles is sustainable, battery producers must review and revamp their production processes and choose more environmentally-friendly strategies.
Taking Advantage of Renewable Energy for Battery Production
British battery manufacturer Britishvolt has unveiled plans to establish a 30GWh battery Gigaplant, which will be located in Northumberland, UK, in a bid to help safeguard the UK in its transition from fossil fuels to electrification.
The company plans to build the facility quickly, with plans for the project to be up and running to full capacity by 2028 and the first batteries to be produced in 2024. Britishvolt hopes that the Gigaplant will fill the growing demand for electric vehicle batteries and is already in talks with major car manufacturers, including Lotus.
In 2020, the UK announced that it would bring its plans to ban fossil fuel vehicles forward five years, from 2040 to 2030. After 2030, no new cars powered only by fossil fuels will be sold. This legislation will help the UK to drastically cut its carbon emissions. It will also drive up demand for electric vehicles, and consequently, the batteries that power them.
Britishvolt highlight the importance of locating a battery cell manufacturing site close to a renewable energy source. Battery production is energy-intensive, and if fossil fuels are used to power this process, it undermines the sustainability of electric vehicles. Therefore, Britishvolt chose Northumberland as the site of its new Gigaplant in order to leverage the vast amount of renewable energy available in the county due to its recent commitment to accelerating ‘green’ energy. The company also plans to generate a lot of its energy from its 200MW solar farm that will be located at the site.
The plan to build a battery manufacturing site in a location wealthy in green energy is a strategy that may act as a blueprint for other companies in the future. Models like this are important for guiding the industry in this uncertain time where much change is occurring. Currently, Britishvolt is only one of two companies that have planned major battery manufacturing projects in the UK. Britishvolt’s focus on establishing sustainable manufacturing processes is an important move to inspire future industry players to do the same. Without a commitment to using renewables at all parts of the automotive supply chain, a sustainable future for transportation will not be achievable.
Looking to the Future with Battery Energy Storage
Battery storage is also becoming more popular in the UK. Over the course of 2019, the UK’s battery storage capacity increased by 70% and it continues to rise. According to recent projections, the UK will have over 38GW of energy storage by 2050 to cope with the switch to energy sources that do not contribute to global emissions.
The UK currently has many projects in the pipeline to respond to the accelerating demand for battery energy storage alongside the increasing pressure to move away from fossil fuels. Britishvolt is contributing to this effort to expand the UK’s battery energy storage capacity. As well as manufacturing electric vehicle batteries at the Northumberland site, it will be producing battery storage solutions that will be accessible to homes, offices, and communities. In addition, Britishvolt highlight that their battery storage will also be used to support sites of renewable power generation, such as solar, wind, and hydro. This will allow renewable sources to capture surplus power that may have otherwise been lost. The system will undoubtedly support the country in its transition towards renewables, helping it to meet its climate change goals, which recent reports estimate it is currently on track to miss.
The Significance of the Britishvolt Project
Britishvolt has established plans that could reasonably act as a blueprint for other companies wishing to enter the battery production market in the UK at a mass scale. When it comes to battery production, renewable energy should be used as the source of power to support manufacture. If not, then the switch from fossil-fueled vehicles to electric vehicles will not be sustainable. Projects like that planned by Britishvolt will potentially contribute to securing a sustainable future for the UK.
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References and Further Reading
Accelerating the transition to a zero carbon future [online]. Britishvolt. Available at: https://www.britishvolt.com/ (Last accessed December 2022)
Britishvolt gets £100m boost to build UK’s first large-scale ‘gigafactory’ [online]. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2022/jan/21/britishvolt-electric-car-battery-uk-gigafactory-blyth-jobs (Last accessed December 2022)
For a livable climate:Net-zero commitments must be backed by credible action [online]. United Nations. Available at: https://www.un.org/en/climatechange/net-zero-coalition (Last accessed December 2022)
UK plans to bring forward ban on fossil fuel vehicles to 2030 [online]. The Guardian. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2020/sep/21/uk-plans-to-bring-forward-ban-on-fossil-fuel-vehicles-to-2030 (Last accessed December 2022)
What we do [online]. Britishvolt. Available at: https://www.britishvolt.com/what-we-do/#ev-batteries (Last accessed December 2022)