BP to invest £50m in Berkshire EV battery R&D hub

Oil and gas giant BP has announced plans to invest up to £50m in a battery research and development center in Berkshire, arguing the move will help accelerate the transition to electric vehicles (EVs).

In an announcement this morning, BP said the EV battery testing center and analytical laboratory planned at the headquarters of its e-fluid brand Castrol would become a leading hub for fluid technologies and engineering in the UK as it looks to help precipitate “key tipping points” ” for hybrid and EV adoption.

Castrol said it intends to use the new facilities at Pangbourne to work with car manufacturers and suppliers to co-engineer future battery technologies and associated thermal management fluids, according to the update.

It said it also planned to develop future technologies required to scale ultra-fast charging systems, which enable drivers to recharge their vehicle more quickly than at the majority of charge points on roads today.

“This additional investment will help accelerate the transition to EVs by developing solutions to help decarbonise the transport sector,” said Louise Kingham, UK head of country at BP.

BP said its Castrol ON brand of e-fluids were already enabling ultra-fast charging and improved efficiency in EVs by managing temperatures in batteries, helping vehicles to go further on a single charge and extending the life of their drivetrain system.

It added that advanced e-fluid technologies and engineering could also provide thermal management services to other industries, such as the rapidly growing data center market.

Castrol CEO, Michelle Jou, said there were major opportunities in the EV fluid market that BP intended to capitalise on over the coming years. “We are committed to supporting the electrification of transport and the take-up of electric vehicles,” she said. “The growth of EV fluids is a huge opportunity, and we aim to be the market leader in this sector.”

Two thirds of the world’s major car manufacturers already used Castrol ON e-fluids in their factory fill, she said, as well as Jaguar TCS Racing’s Formula E team.

“This significant new investment will now allow us to build additional strategic technologies and capabilities to further advance EV fluids for the future,” Jou said. “The facilities will also be an amazing showcase to demonstrate our integrated technology expertise to customers as we help drive the transition to EVs.”

The announcement comes as fossil fuel majors have announced record profits in the wake of the soaring oil and gas prices triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.

BP is set to release its results early this week, but ExxonMobil, Chevron, Shell, and TotalEnergies have so far announced a combined profit of $51bn in recent weeks, with Exxon leading the pack at $18bn.

The results come as households across Europe face a cost-of-living crisis driven in large part by rising fuel prices, with as many as one in four households in the UK expected to slip into fuel poverty this winter.

In related news, a new study from Juniper research has forecast that the volume of battery pack shipments is set to soar from 10 million in 2022 to 30 million in 2027, driven in large part by growth in demand for low carbon commercial vehicles.

Mass electrification of corporate vehicle fleets to meet company decarbonisation goals will drive investment in EVs from enterprises, the analysis predicts, pushing the number of battery pack shipments in the commercial sector from 1.4 million to more than seven million in five years.

Falling vehicle costs and increasing awareness around the environmental benefits of EVs are highlighted by the report as the key drivers behind the rapid growth of the battery pack market.

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