electric vehicle range anxiety

Government backs lithium mining feasibility study in Cornwall

Image credit: horiba mira

The government has announced how it will distribute £9.4m in public funding to development studies for sustainable automotive technology, including a project to establish a full-scale lithium mine in Cornwall and a plant for building specialised magnets for electric vehicle (EV) motors in Cheshire.

The government has chosen to fast-track its plans to phase out internal combustion engines in new cars. This means that by 2030, there must be a range of affordable, attractive EVs on the market and sufficient EV infrastructure to support rapid growth in numbers of the vehicles.

The government has assigned £9.4m from the Automotive Transformation Fund to 22 studies to support pioneering research into battery technology, the EV supply chain, and hydrogen vehicles. The government-backed Faraday Institution will separately commit £22.6m to continue its work on the safety, reliability, and sustainability of batteries.

An unspecified share of the funding will go towards Cornish Lithium’s Trelavour Hard Rock Lithium Scopy Study. This will assess the feasibility of developing a sustainable UK supply chain for lithium hydroxide (which is essential for EV manufacturing) through the establishment of a lithium extraction plant near St Austell.

Cornish Lithium has demonstrated the production of battery-grade lithium hydroxide using mica from granite samples obtained during its two-year drilling programme, and is to move towards full-scale testing. There are hopes for a complete on-site solution in Cornwall to supply the British EV industry.

Other projects to receive funding include a study to explore a promising approach to establish a new UK magnet plant in Cheshire to produce high-quality lightweight magnets for EV motors, and a study into a lightweight hydrogen storage container, based in Loughborough.

“We have set an ambitious target to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. To support that it is critical we invest in research so we can power ahead with the shift to EVs as we build back greener from the pandemic,” said minister for investment Gerry Grimstone. “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 EVs: from developing batteries to exploring how to recycle them.”

The Faraday Institution funding will go towards projects investigating lithium-ion battery safety issues and impacts, solid state batteries, recycling and reusing batteries, and the use of batteries on the energy grid and in aerospace. It will also identify and target market opportunities for battery technologies.

Meanwhile, the transport secretary Grant Shapps has launched a scheme to enable local transport authorities to purchase and deploy zero-emission buses. Up to £120m – taken from the £3bn bus service improvement fund – will be made available to local authorities through the scheme in order to bid for funding for zero-emission buses, reduce carbon emissions from local public transport, and improve air quality. The funding could deliver up to 500 zero-emission buses.

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