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Williams Advanced Engineering enter JV with Unipart to make batteries in the UK

11 September 2018

Unipart Group and a major consortium of industrial partners that includes Williams Advanced Engineering have won funding to build a high-performance, low volume flexible battery manufacturing facility that will produce batteries for future hybrid and electric vehicles. The consortium sponsored by the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) also includes Coventry University, Produtiv, MCT ReMan and The National Composites Centre. Aston Martin is also part of the initiative having previously worked with Williams Advanced Engineering on a prototype battery for an electric vehicle, which will now go into production and act as the ‘halo’ project for the manufacturing facility.

Located in Coventry in the UK, it will be the UK’s largest independent vehicle battery manufacturer, creating around 90 new jobs when it comes on stream early next year. The factory will be operated by a new joint venture, named Hyperbat Limited (Hyperbat), combining the strengths of Williams Advanced Engineering and Unipart Manufacturing Group.

The facility will provide a secure future supply chain for UK-based carmakers as their vehicles transition to electric power, with the potential to provide similar solutions to developing marine and aircraft projects in future. The launch customer for Hyperbat batteries is the Aston Martin Rapide E, which will be a limited production run.

Williams Advanced Engineering has years of experience electrifying vehicles, from powering all the cars on the grid of the ABB FIA Formula E championship in rugged and competitive conditions to projects as varied as the Vanda Electrics Dendrobium electric hypercar and Jaguar Vector Racing world speed record-breaking electric boat.  In April 2018 Williams Advanced Engineering won the Queen’s Award for Enterprise in the Innovation category for its work translating learning from the Formula E battery project into commercial applications.

Unipart is well-known for its expertise in automotive manufacturing, logistics and supply. It will use its manufacturing and technological expertise to produce this more environmentally-progressive equipment to fuel the future of road transport. It will convert a century-old building, which most recently produced vehicle exhausts, to produce more environmentally-friendly equipment to power the future of road transport.

“Today marks a proud day as we bring together two innovative companies to deliver cutting edge technology that will literally power the future of sustainable transport in the UK and beyond,” said Craig Wilson, Managing Director of Williams Advanced Engineering. “We are pleased to be working with Unipart, growing a new capability for our sector in this country for hybrid and electric vehicles, securing the on-shore supply chain for the long-term. Hyperbat will also deliver into high performance battery applications beyond automotive, delivering innovative technology and high value manufacturing, as well as jobs for the next generation workforce.”

“We are delighted to be working with Williams Advanced Engineering on this venture,” said Carol Burke, Managing Director of Unipart Manufacturing Group. “We have developed an advanced manufacturing facility on our Coventry site – the very site in which the British auto industry produced some of its first petrol vehicles. It is fitting that this site will now provide clean, sustainable electric batteries that can be tailored to individual auto manufacturer’s requirements and available to a wide range of companies seeking to introduce electric vehicles into their ranges.”

“We’re pleased to have won the competition and associated funding, and to work with such as strong consortium of partners to address a need that is critical to the UK automotive industry,” said John Neill. “Unipart Group may be unique in the breadth of capability that we can bring to development projects such as this.

“Unipart’s manufacturing group has led this initiative for our company and included the technical skills and facilities from the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering (AME), our partnership with Coventry University. The AME has delivered practical research and development projects to a wide range of companies, including developing a light weight exhaust system for Aston Martin.”

Neill said that the plans to create a new manufacturing facility with partners in the consortium is an important addition to the developments that are taking place in Unipart to build “Industry 4.0” capabilities. This includes joint ventures like the Institute of Advanced Manufacturing and Engineering as well as strategic acquisitions.

“Across Unipart Group there is a wide portfolio of technical capabilities that can accelerate this project and others. For example, MetLase, our joint venture with Rolls-Royce, has continued to innovate with their patented tooling techniques to create solutions to engineering problems. This has included creating “smart enabled tooling” showcasing their Industry 4.0 capability.

“We recently acquired a controlling stake in Instrumentel Ltd., a leader in the design and manufacture of telemetry systems. Instrumental has successfully applied sensors in F1 and other combustion engines enabling accurate data collection at extreme temperatures. They are now transferring that digital capability into other sectors such as rail, literally applying F1 technology to trains,” he said.

“Combining our deep knowledge and expertise in continuous improvement with highly skilled, highly motivated people who have access to the world’s best digital technology, is a formula for making a strong contribution to this project and to the development of the UK’s battery manufacturing capability.”

“Hybrid and electric vehicles will play a key part in Britain’s cleaner and greener future and this new high-tech facility – inspired by a government funded Advanced Propulsion Centre project – will develop new vehicle battery technologies and create high-skilled jobs in Coventry,” said Business Secretary Greg Clark.  “Through the Industrial Strategy, the government is building on our world leading strengths in auto manufacturing and clean growth, making the UK the go-to place for these technologies and boosting the economic opportunities presented by our transition to a low-carbon economy.”

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