Many people training to work in the electrical sector will be ingested in the new technological developments taking place, as the focus grows on green energy generation.
However, while shifting away from fossil fuels for heating, energy generation of powering motor vehicle has benefits ranging from helping the climate to reducing Russian geopolitical leverage, the green energy sector is facing some significant challenges in meeting the energy needs of the UK and other countries.
A key issue has been the capacity of batteries to store electrical energy, especially when some sources of green power can be intermittent, including wind and solar energy. Indeed, those enrolling on an electric vehicle charging course will soon learn all about the importance of chargeable batteries with plenty of capacity in electric cars.
However, there may be a solution to the current limited storage of lithium-ion and other existing types of battery – sand.
A significant development has emerged in Finland, where researchers have managed to set up the first working sand battery. Using low-grade sand that conducts heat extremely well, the battery is charged up with solar or wind electricity and holds the heat at around 500 degrees C.
Most importantly, it can store this for months at a time, providing a source of domestic heating, with the heat being used to warm water that can be used to heat homes and other buildings.
Finland itself may rapidly switch to this system after Russian gas supplies were cut off in response to the country’s decision to join NATO, although it remains to be seen if there is a way it could store electricity as well as heat.
Even if it can only be used for heating, that does mean the issue of what to do when the wind isn’t blowing and the sun isn’t shining – the latter being a key issue in winter – may be solved. It also means it will be easier to focus more on generating electricity for immediate uses, such as powering up electric cars.
In the meantime, there has been lots of recent good news for electric cars in Britain.
The government’s Advanced Propulsion Centre (APL) has announced grant funding for companies keen on setting up lithium processing plants in the north-east of England to press ahead, while investor TechMet has taken up an option to invest another £9 million in Cornish Lithium, a firm working to extract rich deposits of the material found in the county.
These developments will be crucial because at present the world’s lithium supply is mostly mined in the southern hemisphere and China hosts the overwhelming majority of refineries. Like the situation with Russian oil and gas, the Chinese could have a major economic and political advantage if it controlled most of the supply of lithium.
For that reason, having rich sources of it in Britain – with the APL also funding possible mining projects in County Durham – as well as refineries and factories could provide the UK car industry with plenty of security.