Dr Hadi Moztarzadeh, Head of Technology Trends at the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC UK), reviews current industry innovation to address a lithium shortage and details the impact the economic climate will have on automotive production and demand globally, in Europe and the UK.
It is a critical time for the UK automotive industry and, as we drive into 2023, the industry finds itself at a pivotal point. Governments and policymakers around the world have set clear emissions reduction targets. The UK has set the pace for the decarbonisation of transport, leading the way globally to limit temperature rises to 1.5°C, on the journey towards net-zero emissions globally by 2050. However, the Energy Monitor states that emissions must now fall twice as fast as the rate at which they have increased since 1990 if global warming is to stay below 2°C. A challenging task ahead for all nations.
Ambitious targets for the automotive industry
By 2025, light duty vehicles (LDVs), including both passenger cars and commercial vans, must meet an EU-wide fleet average CO2 emissions reduction of 15% according to the 2021 baseline. From 2030, sales of new petrol and diesel cars will come to an end.
We are only three years away from 2025, and just seven years away from a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel cars in 2030. Both are significant milestones for the automotive ecosystem which creates an enormous opportunity for the entire UK PLC to prosper with innovation happening at pace as original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), their partners, and supply chain look to meet these targets with technologically robust electric powertrains. This positions the UK well to meet the challenges posed by net zero and offers a huge opportunity for the UK to generate jobs, inward investment, and a world-class automotive industry.
Accelerating the UK automotive sector
The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) is uniquely placed to keep account of global influences, supplier concerns, OEM capability, and future research and development (R&D). APC’s unique role across the automotive ecosystem and its relationship with industry, academia, and intermediary funding and policy bodies ensure that, collaboratively, we drive strategic and commercial outcomes for the benefit of the UK automotive sector and the wider economy. Our bridging role, between industry, research and innovation, and policymaking means we are best positioned to support the whole automotive sector, up and down the ecosystem, to shape the future of transport and take a science superpower to an industrial superpower.
With a dedicated Technology Trends team monitoring and analysing the industry, a picture is emerging of a sector that is well-placed to handle the transition to net-zero technologies for the automotive industry, if the right support is put in place now to establish and secure localised supply chains, funding, and skills.
This is the biggest transition for the automotive sector we have seen since the introduction of the internal combustion engine (ICE), and this brings with it significant opportunities and challenges. Value chains for all elements of powertrain production are impacted, workforces need to be re/up-skilled and retained, investment needs to be made, and supply chains need to be established and secured – all against a backdrop of economic uncertainty.
Critical minerals shortages
One of the biggest factors facing automotive OEMs is the issue of access to critical minerals, specifically lithium, as a shortage could impact the number of batteries manufactured. A recent report released by the APC pointed to battery electric vehicle (BEV) production in both the UK and Europe being revised marginally downwards due to project and production delays, impacted by the current economic uncertainty and supply chain issues.
However, the APC’s Technology Trends team believes that the potential lithium deficit we expect to see in 2030 could be reduced by as much as 40%, based on future modelling scenarios that have been conducted to assess the impact of different solutions. These could include manufacturing BEVs that require alternative battery chemistries, such as substituting lithium with sodium-ion in smaller vehicles and shifting some BEV production to fuel cell electric vehicles (FCEVs); plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs); and range extender vehicles.
The potential impact a lithium shortage could have includes an energy density impact of different chemicals; an impact…
Read More: Analysing trends of the automotive industry