Chris McDonald, the Chief Executive of the Materials Processing Institute, has predicted that Nissan’s decision to secure the long-term future of its Sunderland car plant could result in the North East becoming an electric vehicle superpower.
He said: “The announcement that additional battery production is to be moved closer to the plant is tremendous news for its 6,000 staff as well as the 70,000 jobs it supports in the supply chain.
“As well as ending years of uncertainty, it also represents a vote of confidence in the region’s research and innovation capabilities and will surely act as a catalyst for other advanced technologies to develop.”
Nissan currently imports the batteries for its Leaf electric cars from Japan.
Chris added: “This area already hosts some of the world’s leading experts and innovators in new technologies, which could in future could in future guarantee the North East electric vehicle superpower status.”
The Teesside-based Institute is itself leading a project to develop techniques to extract and reuse rare metals, including lithium, cobalt, and graphite, from end-of-life electric vehicle (EV) batteries.
Funded by UK Research and Innovation, it would minimise Britain’s dependence on imported materials, reduce the environmental harm and cut the cost of manufacturing the batteries – making EVs more affordable. The Institute is delivering the £60,00 project in collaboration with Inprotec Ltd, Cornish Lithium Ltd, and Waste Care Ltd.
He added that another example of North East innovation is the recent announcement that battery technology investor Britishvolt is to build a multi-million pound ‘gigaplant’ in Blyth to manufacture electric car batteries.
Last year the Materials Processing Institute was awarded £22m by chancellor Rishi Sunak to deliver a five-year programme to revolutionise the steels and metals sector. Projects include research into low carbon, electric and hydrogen-based steelmaking, scrap recycling and new processes to create a sustainable, green industry, together with the development and commercialisation of technologies in SME supply chains, such as robotics and artificial intelligence.
Chris added: “The North East was once at the forefront of the first industrial revolution and it is now positioning itself to become a leading region for the industries of the future.”