Britishvolt, Welsh government ink MOU for building UK’s first EV battery gigaplant
The plant is aiming for commercially viable capacity of 30 GWh, staggered over three tranches
Manufacturer Britishvolt has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh government in a bid to build the UK’s first large-scale electric vehicle battery factory, the company said July 17.
The plant is aiming for commercially viable capacity of 30 GWh, staggered over three tranches, with a 200-MW solar plant alongside to assist in making the manufacturing of batteries as green as possible, it said.
The site is a former Royal Air Force base at Bro Tathan in South Wales’ Vale of Glamorgan.
Speaking with S&P Global Platts, Orral Nadjari, Britishvolt CEO and founder, said all the initial funds are in place to move forward with the project, and progress to the next phase. He also said that by the first quarter of 2021 the company could be in a position to list publicly, which would help with raising the around £1.2 billion ($1.5 billion) needed to get the facility up and running.
“There is enough money in the bank [to push forward] and start talking to the end-users and find out exactly what they want,” he said.
He added that capital markets are “aligned” to move the economy toward a greener, sustainable future.
Industry sources tell Platts that having a solid environmental, social and governance footprint makes raising money a far easier process.
“You can’t avoid ESG now, it’s becoming part of investors’ DNA. You need to be on the ball and fully through on commitments. If you serve lip-service you’ll be caught out by savvy money managers,” said one senior banker.
Britishvolt is fully embedded in a sustainable narrative, aiming to be one of the greenest battery producers worldwide.
After six months of analysis, the site was chosen due to a number of factors including import/export accessibility, availability of labor and skilled staff, and geographical proximity to customers and local industrial companies.
“Both parties have now signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU), to collaborate on the potential of building the UK’s first full cycle battery cell gigaplant subject to UK government funding through the Automotive Transformation Fund, to produce lithium ion cylindrical and pouch cells primarily servicing the automotive market,” the company said.
The Automotive Transformation Fund is a long-term program designed to enable the UK to build a comprehensive electric vehicle supply chain.
Local supply chains essential
A successful outcome of the partnership could enable the scalable production of a world-class portfolio of lithium ion batteries, creating and expanding an onshore manufacturing ecosystem and supply chain to support the country’s “Road to Zero” emissions targets, and unprecedented transition to electrification, the company said. It is anticipated that the initial £1.2 billion of investment from the company could eventually lead to up to 3,500 jobs. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2021, with first output of batteries by 2023.
The coronavirus pandemic has only exacerbated the need for localized supply chains, for both job security and the good of the planet.
When it comes to the plant’s operations, Britishvolt Chief Strategy Officer Isobel Sheldon told Platts there will be a “parallel approach,” one where cell design technology can be licensed with a fallback position of a homegrown design. Britishvolt intends to create batteries to suit specific automotive customers. What will not be happening is toll manufacturing, whereby the manufacturer simply makes batteries stamped with other companies’ brands, she said.
Both Sheldon and Nadjari said the time is right for Britishvolt as the world moves out of the pandemic and eyes a green recovery, one that shields a local automotive industry that itself is in a state of flux as it moves from a traditional internal combustion engine business model toward electrification of the fleet.
UK needs battery manufacturing
“The battery industry needs to come to the UK,” said Sheldon. “The ambitious plans we have are also going to come with social responsibility, bringing jobs to Wales and protecting the UK’s auto industry.”
The UK’s new car market began a “tentative restart” in June, with electric vehicles continuing to increase market share, but total registrations were still down by over a third compared with a year ago, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said July 6.
“While it’s welcome to see demand rise above the rock-bottom levels we saw during lockdown, this is not a recovery and barely a restart,” said Mike Hawes, SMMT’s chief executive.
“Many of June’s registrations could be attributed to customers finally being able to collect their pre-pandemic orders, and appetite for significant spending remains questionable,” he added.