Electrifying the World of Automotive

17 May 2021

Ridge is on a journey, powered by electricity, at the forefront of the industry.

The journey started in 2005 when a number of high-profile Formula One teams trusted Ridge to help build pioneering infrastructure to support the evolution of the part electrification (KERS) of their race cars; this was at the embryonic stage of electrification and regeneration in cars. The next stage of the journey led us to strive to achieve the same for automotive giant Jaguar Land Rover and others with significant R&D and testing facilities. An explosion in interest from the sector followed and, based on the breadth of our experience and the depth of our knowledge – having literally played a part in the history of the electrification of the industry – we are now leading the way in supporting clients to embrace the future, from the small scale (single EV charging points) to the vast (the UK’s first full-scale gigaplant).

The journey has not always been smooth with many complexities to manage and a significant learning curve, with evolving technologies in a very dynamic industry –to produce the very best solution for our clients.

In December, we were appointed by manufacturer Britishvolt to help project manage, design, and build the UK’s first full-scale battery gigaplant in Blyth, Northumberland. The gigaplant will require a total investment of £2.6bn, making it one of the UK’s largest ever industrial investments, creating 3000 highly skilled jobs and up to 5000 more in the wider supply chain. The gigaplant will be built on a 95-hectare site, formerly the location of Blyth Power Station. It is strategically important to the UK automotive industry and a key component in Boris Johnson’s ten-point plan for the UK’s green recovery and an important step to a Net Zero economy by 2050. The use of renewable energy will include the potential from hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea via the world’s longest inter-connector from the North Sea Link project. Alongside sustainability services, we are providing Programme and Project Management, Executive Architecture, Planning Consultancy, Digital Engineering, Environmental, Social & Corporate Governance and Principal Designer services.

Last year we supported the Faraday Battery Challenge, which has been established to fast track the development of recyclable batteries. We provided Project Management and BIM Management services to the £130 UK Battery Industrialisation Centre to build a facility near Coventry. In addition, we are currently undertaking nationwide surveys to support a client with a national rollout programme of EV charging to support their transition to carbon neutral. The programmed works will be undertaken over a 3-year period and require in excess of 800 properties to be surveyed to determine the works required to implement the charging capacity. The works include civil, structural, electrical engineering and distribution network operator infrastructure.

Also, in supporting property developers, we have created an early desktop study pack to establish the viability of potential site locations for EV charging service stations. The study allows early appraisal taking multiple factors into consideration. This reduces initial expenditure and hones the multiple options to more viable solutions. We are also supporting a national client in the development of offsite fabricated accommodation to supplement electric vehicle charging service stations. The units are designed to enable full offsite fabrication, ensuring rapid deployment. The overall site development allows for a combination of rapid, standard and specialist charging.

Across multiple schemes Ridge has also overseen the delivery of not only installed EV charging points, but looking to future proof schemes with passive infrastructure and appropriate network infrastructure to facility ease of expansion. This type of work has been undertaken in multiple construction sectors across, level, decked and multistorey car parking solutions.

The Planning team at Ridge have also been involved in a number of schemes involving EV charging, the most significant of which has been achieving planning permission for an EV charging station in the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. The proposal includes 102 electric vehicle (“EV”) charging spaces (six of which will be for disabled users), an on-site solar energy generation to enable a proportion of the charging to be directly powered by renewable energy, and a services building.

So, what does the future pathway on the journey look like? What risks must we mitigate, and issues must we navigate, to find the best way forward?

The UK was the first major economy to embrace a legal obligation to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050. The ‘Ten Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution’, announced in November 2020, highlights the key actions required to support this bold ambition. ‘Accelerating the Shift to Zero Emission Vehicles’ is a key priority within the plan and major automotive manufacturers have already made bold commitments supporting the vision. The UK will ban the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. To meet the growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs), and specifically to support the UK car industry, requires a huge uplift in infrastructure and the delivery of battery technology. The UK Government are investing £1.3 billion to accelerate the roll out of charging infrastructure, targeting support on rapid charge points on motorways and major roads and installing more on-street charge points near homes and workplaces. For Local Authorities, an integrated EV network is a key priority in addressing the ‘Climate Emergency’ aligning with broader ambitions around green buildings and infrastructure. Designing in support for EVs will support a low carbon infrastructure and improve air quality. For commercial developers and contractors EV charging capability is becoming a fundamental requirement against client sustainability needs.

Ultimately the risk is in failing to address necessary change – the need to protect the future of the planet, the need to change consumer habits, the need to meet legal obligations, the need to create both economic and ecological resilience across industries, the need to broaden the corporate approach – such that ‘sustainability’ does not sit in isolation, but is engrained in every decision our clients make.

Ridge has worked at every level in addressing the risk head on, working with clients large and small – through design, planning and modelling to project management, civil, structural, mechanical and electrical engineering. We are helping clients to future-proof their properties and build resilience into their buildings, to de-risk businesses in helping to meet the demands of ESG and demonstrate their commitment to the delivery of SDGs, fire safety regulation and stay ahead of digital innovation. To ultimately protect them from falling behind on their journey, to find the best path forward, often requiring multi-layered solutions that Ridge is so well placed to provide.

For further information please contact Jolyon