Battery innovation - an enabling technology for the reduction of greenhouse emissions

From both sides of the research community, companies and academics are working to not only invent new battery technologies and bring them to market; but also to work out how best to deploy them in the context of existing products and energy grid. These exciting innovations extend across all areas of the battery space and are set to revolutionise the power of the future in a way that’s clean and renewable.

Advances in battery innovation are set to play a big part in helping to cut greenhouse emissions, particularly in the electric vehicle (EV) field as optimising the way in which we power and charge our vehicles is going to become more and more important as electric cars become ubiquitous. UK company Moxia have developed smart systems that manage energy storage and charging based on data about energy usage and price across the energy network to optimise charging of EVs, and other battery systems. This patented technology[1] not only reduces the charging cost to the end user but means that, having gone to the effort to generate clean electricity, it is used in an efficient way – peaks and troughs in supply and demand can be more effectively managed and even exploited to the benefit of the end user.

The development of new chemistries underlying battery technology also provides an important route to improvements in energy density and battery safety. Options such as lithium-sulphur batteries and sodium ion cells providing possible ways forward along with new electrode technologies being developed, and patented, by companies such as Nexeon[2] and Johnson Matthey[3]. 

New legislation and incentives driving change

Recent European legislation means that recycling of battery materials is now a crucial consideration and will become even more important as we aim to reduce the environmental impact of producing new cells. In the UK Aceleron Energy aims to go some way towards meeting these new requirements by developing battery packs that can not only be recycled easily but can also be repaired to extend their useful lifetime. The modular design, explained in their patent publication[4], allows individual cells to be replaced without needing to discard the entire battery. 

In support of these ground-breaking innovations and to assist them getting to market, support organisations have also sprung up in the UK. The Advanced Propulsion Centre is a specific one devoted to next generation mobility. However the Faraday Institution and UK Battery Industrialisation Centre (BIC) are assisting with battery technology in the broader sense. The Faraday Institution aims to bring together researchers and industry partners to support commercially-focussed research and accelerate routes to market. The UK BIC focusses more on supporting industrialisation and scaling of proven battery innovations. Both play a part in the UK Government Faraday Battery Challenge which provides funding opportunities to drive development of large numbers of cheaper, more powerful, recyclable batteries that will power the EVs of the future. 

Consumer battery technologies

For many people, any discussion of battery technology in a “green” or “clean” context starts and ends with electric vehicles (EVs). Indeed many of the significant advances in battery technology do come from a focus on improving existing EVs. However, the widespread, and ever-increasing, requirement for portable power means that environmental concerns in the battery field reach out beyond EVs into consumer products. The challenges here are not so immediately apparent – while your laptop or phone uses electricity, it does not pump out diesel fumes every time you start it up; so the environmental impact is not quite so immediately apparent. However, the huge numbers of electronic consumer devices means that even a small increase in lifetime, charge/discharge efficiency or ease of recycling could have a large impact on the amounts of energy that we need to produce from clean sources to power them; a large reduction in the amount of raw materials that we need to dig out of the ground to make them; and a large decrease in the amount of battery waste that we need to handle. 

COP26 accelerating positive action

A recent fascinating seminar hosted by the Advanced Propulsion Centre as part of the lead-up to COP26 discussed the part that batteries will play in meeting emissions targets and highlighted some likely areas in which the industry commentators expect battery technology to improve over the next few years to helpmeet these targets. While technological innovation is expected to provide significant advances, other considerations such a supply-chain optimisation and localisation of raw materials are also likely to be important when considering how best to use battery technology to reduce or environmental impact. 

Indeed as part of the COP26 conference itself, world leaders will have the opportunity to experience the world’s first fully battery powered passenger train developed (and patented[6]) by British company Vivarail. But this example of British innovation in next generation transport is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of a vibrant battery innovation and commercialisation sector in the UK. 


1 Granted patent GB 2 574 264 B

2 Granted patents including GB 2 498 802 B; GB 2 587 326 B

3 Granted patent EP 2 543 097 B1

4 Patent application WO 2020/128533

5 Granted patent GB 2 577 853 B

6 Patent applications including GB 2 576 699 A; EP 3 613 067



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