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Did our battery tech predictions come true?

By Chris Mapp

The short answer is yes! 

A couple years ago, we put out a report which included our thoughts on the current state of battery suppliers in the industry as well as what we predicted for the future. Since it's been a few years since then, we thought we'd look back at this report and see whether our predictions came true.

So, what did we predict?

Cast your minds back to 2020 (we know, it's been a while). Back then we predicted that OEMs wouldn't have the appetite to develop their own battery cells. Instead, the way the market was going indicated that it was more likely to end up with strategic partnerships between OEMs and battery cell manufacturers, creating more exclusivity in the market.
What’s happening now?

Move over Mystic Meg, Mystic Mapp is here now! Exactly what Chris predicted has happened. Four years on and OEMS still don’t seem to have any desire to start producing battery cells for themselves and are leaning towards building strategic partnerships, such as LG with Ford and Panasonic with Tesla.

Since then we've also seen interesting new partnerships emerge, and not just ones between OEMs and battery suppliers. A good example of this is the collab between Red Bull Powertrains (RBP) and Ford - two OEMs - with Ford hoping to acquire technology from RBP to use in their road cars.

Is this kind of partnership something we'll see more of in future?

Speaking of the future…

It's no secret that the battery cell is one of the most important parts of any car. OEMs are already building up their battery teams to have the knowledge so they can understand they are capable of. Internal battery teams have grown on a huge scale in the last few years, often from one sole person to a large-scale team. With how critical the battery is, we think there's potential for OEMs to begin looking at developing their own battery cells rather than relying on suppliers so that they can have full control over the tech, similar to how Mercedes purchased the intellectual property for the KERS system so they could produce it themselves.  With many partnerships still ongoing with long contracts it may be a while before we see this, but don’t rule it out.

There are also several emerging OEMs who have been making waves within battery electric vehicle (BEV) production. BYD are becoming a big player in the market, finishing the year only just behind Tesla in the sales of BEVs as well as selling more cars overall than the entire British car industry. Rivian are also emerging as a potential mainstay within BEVs, topping user satisfaction charts amongst the biggest car brands. Despite being focused solely on BEVs, these emerging OEMs have enough on their plate already when it comes to breaking into the market so are less likely to begin making their own batteries compared to the large OEMs who have huge R&D budgets in comparison.

How is this impacting skills & knowledge?

So, with everything that is happening between OEMs and battery suppliers, what's this doing to in-demand skills?
Well, we've found that these companies are less focused on skills, and care more about battery-specific knowledge. In past partnerships, OEMs have had to trust the knowledge being given to them by battery suppliers as they didn’t have the knowledge themselves to challenge them. With OEMs starting to build up their own internal battery teams, they are looking for people with a high level of knowledge of the current capabilities of batteries.

One way that OEMs are building up their understanding in their teams is by hiring recent graduates, with one key degree being chemistry as these companies are looking for electrochemists. These are typically graduates whose thesis is around battery cell production and the future technology in batteries - these people have the most up-to-date knowledge. And in a situation where knowledge is power, the hope is that these switched on graduates will be able to work collaboratively with (and constructively challenge!) the battery suppliers OEMs are partnered with to help them get the best out of their batteries.

If OEMs did want to venture into making their own batteries, what skills would they be looking for in their teams? We believe there would be quite a lot! Here is a list of a few key skills OEMs would be looking for:
    - Chemistry or Electrochemistry
    - Cell development and Pack design
    - Manufacturing engineer
    - Process engineer
    - HV electrical test engineer
    - And many, many more…

Want to learn more about the opportunities within this industry? Get in touch with Chris at chris.mapp@fmctalent.com
 

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