As part of the global growth of AESC, our UK battery plant plays an integral role in our commitment to growth, quality and innovation, alongside over 400 employees who work within it. Based in Sunderland, North East England the UK manufacturing production site continues to evolve with the creation of our 12GWh Gigafactory, set for launch in 2024.
Our 25,000 sq ft battery plant is central to everything we do at AESC UK. It’s here that our world-leading, innovative battery solutions come to life. Working with state-of-the-art technology, our plant is split across four unique production areas, each serving a key role in our quest to shape the future of battery manufacturing.
This is the area where our team puts together the based components needed to produce the first stage in our battery production – the cell.
Large rolls of anode and cathode electrodes are slit into sheets before fast-moving robots are used to layer them in alternating positive and negative patterns to make the cell.
The cells then move through conveyors to the tab welding process, where the positive and negative tabs are added. They are then laminated into pouches, effectively making a dry cell, before entering the injection process, where the electrolyte is added to help form the current between the electrodes. The cell is then heat sealed and stacked into magazines 4-cells high in preparation for the next stage.
This is all done in a specialist clean room environment, where our teams must wear full PPE to protect our products. Our product is in demand, so this is a high-pressure environment where fast pace is combined with complicated processes, so the ability to work quickly and carefully is key.
Our formation, ageing and testing area is where we carry out the process to charge and cure our cells. It’s an area bound by time constraints and product recovery, involving several stages.
Stacked magazines of 32 cells move between different ageing and charging processes lanes to complete this stage. First the cells soak the electrolyte into the electrodes, before the electrolyte is dispersed evenly throughout the product to ensure good electrical connection. The cells then pass through to a further stage of soaking and charging, which kicks off the chemical reaction. During this process, gas bubbles can form in the cells. This is tackled with a degassing process, followed by another roller machine to once again spread the electrolyte.
The product is charged and then enters the buffer system. Once it is called from the buffer it will be trimmed, voltage-checked, leak-tested and manually inspected.
Module assembly is where our cells are stacked together into “modules” to make a greater charge and allow for increased energy capacity.
Cells are first inspected to ensure there are no defects before going through a tab press. Tabs are trimmed and the cells are pressed together. It’s essential we move at pace in this area, and you’ll see impressive modern robots to help us get the job done as fast as possible. The cells are then stacked and placed into a can, before positive and negative tabs are connected together and the module is created. Modules are typically either 40kw or 60kw variations, with the size of the module determining the energy that is possible in the end product.
This area will feel familiar to those who have worked in time-critical manufacturing facilities before, as it is similar to a production line, with many robots moving a high speed and frequent welding processes.
Here we pack the modules into the final casing that makes up the battery footprint within the vehicle. It’s the final stage of our process, where the modules are wired together to form a battery pack before carrying out final high-precision testing, leak detection and partial charging. The packs are then packed and shipped out to our customers.
We’re proud to be investing in our North East home with a state-of-the-art gigafactory at the 16GWh IAMP (International Advanced Manufacturing Park). Located in the heart of the North East’s manufacturing district, Plant 2 represents a multi-million pound investment in the future of battery plant production in our region. As well as building a new plant, we’ll be building hundreds of new careers to support our increased production capacity and providing new opportunities to people who will help us change the world.
The introduction of the new battery plant will see some exciting innovations within our manufacturing process. A UK-first new, 3-floor electrode manufacturing stage will be introduced at the very start of our operations, where we will take the raw materials and process these into rolls of electrode directly on site. Areas A and B will also see some fundamental changes, with a new “folding” process, rather than the historic stacking of cells and modules, with new efficiencies being introduced throughout the plant. Lines will be flexible by design, able to switch between 40kw and 60kw depending on need.
We have all heard of electric vehicles and their anticipated rapid adoption, but did you know how an electric vehicle battery is actually made?
The growth of vehicle electrification depends on the consistent, quality supply of EV batteries, which are used to supply energy to all components of the vehicle’s powertrain. EVs use packs full of thousands of individual lithium-ion cells, all working together to supply the power needed to run the vehicle. The elements within the cells, such as carbon, graphite, metal oxide and lithium salt, make up positive (cathode) and negative (anode) electrodes, before combining with the electrolyte to produce an electric current that powers the batter and, in turn, the vehicle.
Learn more about our aims, ethos and values here at AESC UK battery plant.