A jolt for the electric car industry in the Midlands

The new electric Jaguar Image copyright Jaguar
Image caption Who will produce the batteries for the new electric Jaguar?

Now Jaguar has unveiled its new electric car there's a huge battle just starting over the batteries that will power it.

At WMG, formerly the Warwick Manufacturing Group, based on the University of Warwick campus, researchers are working hard to make sure it's British battery technology that triumphs.

And right now we have a small lead but there's still fierce competition from overseas competitors.

So what happens at WMG's rapidly expanding battery lab is vital to the future of Jaguar and, of course, Coventry and the wider Midlands.

Big laboratory

Image caption At WMG, staff can create new battery “recipes” and then scale up production to a mini-factory production run

I went to see what the researchers are up to.

What's really fascinating for a scientist like me is the scale of this lab.

It's much bigger than your standard university laboratory.

Here they don't just come up with new battery recipes or test them to destruction.

They have all the machines necessary to scale things up and produce actual batteries on a mini production line.

For example; prototype lithium oxide batteries react badly to water and must be produced in a protective atmosphere.

In a university lab that means using a small sealed box where the researcher can stick her hands inside using gloves built into the box itself.

At WMG it's all on a much bigger scale.

You enter an airlock and then an entire room where all troublesome water is removed from the atmosphere.

In fact, the air is 20 times drier inside this room than it is in the Sahara.

An 80% improvement

Image caption The WMG battery research facility is about to open its new £20m expansion

Things at the battery lab are getting even bigger, with a £20m extension.

So after all this money and effort, have the team managed to improve things?

Well yes.

They believe they can create a vehicle battery that is an 80% improvement on current battery technologies. (Full disclosure: That's not an 80% increase in efficiency or an 80% increase in power to weight ratio, but rather an overall comparison involving all these measurements and more).

What's really exciting is that the size of the WMG battery lab means they can take this new battery and scale up production.

It is to see if it can be made using actual production techniques that would be found in a factory and at a size where it could be fitted to an electric car.

It means an electric car using this new battery could be tested as early as next year.

Which is of great interest to Jaguar and its newly announced electric car plans.

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