MTC project revolutionises electric vehicle battery technology
Date: Thursday 23 October 2014
Research creates lighter, low cost battery for volume manufacture
A pioneering project at the Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) in the West Midlands has resulted in dramatic steps forward in the manufacture of electric vehicle battery packs, eradicating major barriers to electric car ownership.
After two years work the leading-edge project – christened EV-Lite – has produced ready-for-manufacture electric vehicle battery packs for around a third of the current cost. The high cost of battery packs is putting a brake on electric vehicle sales in the UK and worldwide.
The project has also solved the longstanding problem of battery pack weight, reducing it by more than a quarter. In addition the project future-proofed the battery assembly, coming up with a design which can work with any cell chemistry, cutting out the cost of re-designs to keep up with cell technology. The project’s dramatic findings, which pave the way for low cost, high volume electric battery pack manufacture in the UK , were unveiled at the LCV 2014 Low Carbon Vehicle technology event at Millbrook in September.
The two-year EV-Lite project was funded by Innovate UK. Experts at the Coventry-based MTC led the project and worked with a consortium comprising engineers and scientists from Loughborough University, Unipart, RDVS Components, the Bluebird Innovation Group and Cenex, the Government-backed centre of excellence for low carbon and battery technology. The project team also included the Aylesbury-based Centre for Remanufacturing and Re-use which is largely funded by Defra.
Canadian-based battery specialist Electrovaya supported the project and provided a Maya 300 low speed electric vehicle to act as a test bed. The Maya 300 is powered by Electrovaya’s lithium-ion SuperPolymer battery. Technology director at the MTC, Ken Young, said the team set themselves a goal of bringing electric vehicles to the masses by tackling the key issues of cost, weight and sustainability.
“All current electric vehicle batteries are not designed with mass manufacture in mind. The project has concentrated on issues such as reducing the parts count and designing for volume manufacture, meaning the batteries are cheaper and lighter. They are also easier to take apart for maintenance and to recycle at the end of their life.
“The high cost of battery packs has prevented the increased uptake of electric vehicles. A battery pack for an electric vehicle with a 110-mile range can cost anything up to £16,000 making electric vehicles significantly more expensive than their internal combustion engine counterparts. It weighs up to 300 kilograms. The additional cost is due to over-engineering, performance requirements, manufacturing issues and a lack of high volume manufacture.
“The consortium has also ensured that the battery pack can be manufactured in high volume on an automated facility. There are no wires or screws in the design, an innovative safety feature isolates the cells in an accident and the battery management board design is revolutionary. The consortium has made a patent application to protect the technology for five inventions that go into this project.”
The MTC opened in 2011 and was founded by the University of Birmingham, Loughborough University, the University of Nottingham and TWI Ltd. The MTC’s industrial members include some of the UK’s major global manufacturers. The MTC aims to provide a competitive environment to bridge the gap between university-based research and the development of innovative manufacturing solutions, in line with the Government’s manufacturing strategy. The MTC is part the High Value Manufacturing Catapult, supported by Innovate UK. The growth of the Manufacturing Technology Centre has far exceeded expectations, achieving many of its targets five years ahead of schedule.