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£11.3m battery production project deliver automated pilot line

2 mins read

A £11.3m project, designed to scale up the UK’s battery pack manufacturing and supply chain capability, has been hailed a resounding success.

The H1perChain project, which was funded by the Advanced Propulsion Centre UK (APC), has successfully developed an automated pilot line for module/pack assembly, cell joining and in-line testing – delivering a step-change in high performance battery costs and scalability.

Led by Hyperbat and working with main consortium partners Unipart Manufacturing, WAE, Coventry University and Direc-Tec, the challenge has also come up with a world class laser welding joining process for cylindrical cell formats, hundreds of skills development opportunities, and the creation of a digital platform to connect the battery value chain.

More than 50 highly skilled jobs have been created at the state-of-the-art production facility in Coventry, with the promise of another 25 on the way as it enters into its first commercial agreement to supply battery packs for a global customer.

Jon Bell, project lead at Hyperbat, commented: “We came into H1perchain with the overriding aim of developing a process and emerging supply chain capability for manufacturing high-performance batteries in the UK.

“The brief was to find a way of reducing costs whilst increasing performance and meeting lead times, something we believe we are well on the way to achieving with the pilot line successfully assembling packs and a ‘digital twin’ in play to scale up production into the tens of thousands.”

He continued: “Importantly, we have won our first commercial project, which has started to go into production. There are also several other opportunities in the pipeline that we are exploring.

“If the UK is going to compete in the electrification race, it is critical that we have a domestic battery making capability and a supportive supply chain in place.”

More than 50 guests from industry and academia were present at the project conclusion event held at Hyperbat in Coventry this week.

They received a guided tour of the physical pilot line that features incoming cell OCV Testing, adhesive robot stations, laser welding, potting machines, and robotic assembly, as well entering the virtual world to experience a digital twin of what a high-volume production facility could look like.

Experts from H1perchain also presented the novel industry 4.0 digitalisation platform that will underpin the development of a UK supply chain capable of producing more than £70m of module and battery pack components and sub-systems every year.

Jon went on to add: “The Supplier Portal is one of the most exciting parts of H1perchain and gives us an IOT platform that the wider supply chain can now use to engage with Hyperbat on future activities.

“By creating a ‘single source of truth’ of key manufacturing process data, bills of material and quality accreditation requirements, we are making it easy for companies - looking to supply components into battery packs - to get involved.”

He continued: “We’ve onboarded 36 UK suppliers to the system so far, but the next target is to increase this to 200 by the end of 2024. This will include firms making busbars, aluminium castings, injection moulding specialists and those supplying consumables - to name just a few engineering disciplines we are looking to talk to.”

Sunil Maher, senior project lead at Advanced Propulsion Centre, added his support: “The H1perchain project has achieved significant and positive outcomes for the UK, with the consortium partners establishing battery module and pack manufacturing capability that is scalable for current and future demand.

“The development and understanding of laser welding technologies and processes has delivered efficient module and battery pack build times to meet future volume and customer demands.

He concluded: “It is brilliant to see how Hyperbat have taken the learnings from this collaborative R&D project by achieving commercial success with a UK OEM.

The full H1perchain consortium included Hyperbat, Unipart Manufacturing, WAE, Coventry University, Direc-Tec and The Welding Institute.

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