Tritax and abrdn to fund Britishvolt battery Gigafactory

By Dominic Ellis
Britishvolt's £3.8bn Gigafactory will create a sustainable and green powered ecosystem for UK battery and EV manufacturing

Tritax and abrdn are to fund the building of Britishvolt's Gigafactory shell and core in Northumberland, as well as develop the associated supplier park.

The project has also received support from the UK Government through its Automotive Transformation Fund - delivered by the Advanced Propulsion Centre - which aims to create a sustainable, zero emission automotive supply chain in the UK.

Peter Rolton, Britishvolt Executive Chairman, said the announcement is a major step in putting the UK at the forefront of the global energy transition, unlocking huge private sector investment that will develop the technology and skills required for Britain to play its part in the next industrial revolution. 

Speaking on BBC Radio 4's Today programme, he said the project now begins in earnest in April, and batteries will not only be manufactured for electric cars but also public transport and light commercial vehicles. The BBC reported that the government is providing £100mn funding.

James Dunlop, CEO, Tritax Group, said the £3.8bn scheme will create a sustainable and green powered ecosystem for UK battery and EV manufacturing. "Blyth is mission critical infrastructure of national importance," he said, adding that the development will help realise the UK Government’s commitment to deliver British made batteries for the automotive sector in an energy cluster in the Northeast.

"We have a strong track record of identifying operators and projects at the epicentre of structural change and as such are proud to be working alongside Britishvolt, the UK Government and a world class professional team to unlock a greener future for UK plc."

Over the next few weeks Britishvolt will make a series of follow up announcements including customer MoUs and R&D collaborations, relationships with blue chip UK automotive sports car brands and technology releases.

"The news is the first step in creating a commercialised battery ecosystem, that perfectly aligns with the existing R&D ecosystem," said Rolton. "Britishvolt will be the anchor for attracting further sections of the supply chain, be it refining or recycling, to co-locate on the Britishvolt site. This not only shortens supply chains but also allows for partners to access the abundance of renewable energy on site to truly power low carbon, sustainable battery production."

It will also allow Britishvolt to "catapult" its tailormade business proposition on a global scale, with sites already selected for development in other countries.

I’m especially proud that this is such a major boost for Northumberland – the county of my birth - bringing around 3,000 direct highly-skilled jobs and another 5,000+ indirect wider supply chain roles into the region. 

This is a truly historic day and marks the start of a truly exciting move towards a low carbon future. One with Britishvolt batteries at the very centre of that strategy.”

According to APC research, by 2030 the UK will need over 90GWh per annum of batteries for cars and light commercials alone and represents over 11% of the total demand across Europe. 

Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, said: "Britishvolt’s plan to build a new Gigafactory in Northumberland is a strong testament to the skilled workers of the North East and the UK’s place at the helm of the global green industrial revolution."

The project will create [c]3,000-plus, direct high-skilled jobs and another 5,000-plus indirect roles in the wider UK supply chain to build enough cells each year for over 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs. 

Kwasi Kwarteng, Business Secretary, said: In this global race between countries to secure vital battery production, this Government is proud to make the investment necessary to ensure UK’s retains its place as one of the best locations in the world for auto manufacturing."

It also underscores the Government’s ambitions for the UK to be a "world leader" in the battery industry, having already established an ecosystem including WMG, University of Warwick, the Advanced Propulsion Centre, The Faraday Institute and UK Battery Industrialistion Centre.

The transformation and development of the 93-hectare site is underway by Britishvolt’s construction partner ISG. Advanced works are progressing to support the design process and the significant onsite infrastructure required to deliver a project of this scale and complexity. 

Julian Hetherington, Automotive Transformation Director, at the Advanced Propulsion Centre, which manages the Automotive Transformation Fund on behalf of the UK Government, said this is a pivotal moment for the UK automotive sector as it demonstrates that the country is a highly competitive landscape for investment in the full R&D and manufacturing ecosystem for these vital technologies.

"We have a vibrant and diverse industry, and Britishvolt’s significant investment in R&D and manufacturing will help establish competitive supply chains and satisfy this burgeoning demand - and in doing so will create thousands of highly-skilled, green jobs, regenerating a site that was previously home to the UK’s largest coal-fired power station. This is true transformation, unlocked by the Government’s commitment to support green growth and levelling up."

Britishvolt battery gigafactory boosts UK self sufficiency

Alok Dubey, UK Country Manager at EV charging platform Monta, welcomed the news, as the UK has been needing to improve its battery plants if we’re really to become a key player in the EV industry. 

"The creation of more car battery factories in the UK will help us become much more self-sufficient. We currently rely a lot on imports, but it's not easy to import large, heavy batteries from China, not least because of the levels of safety checks and import barriers, which consume more time and money," he said.

"Imports are currently a massive cost and challenge for the industry. If manufacturers can’t produce enough electric power units to keep up with EV demand, we’ll have an even bigger issue on our hands."

He said that recent Brexit regulations also stipulate that UK manufactured cars will need to contain locally-sourced parts also represent a challenge. If you look at the current statistics, most of the raw materials that you need to build electric car batteries are lead, nickel and cobalt - most of which are mainly found in China, which also owns over 70% of the battery processing facilities.

"However, one factory alone won’t be enough to sustain the demand for electric vehicles in the long-term," he added. "With the rate EVs are being adopted in the UK, we’re likely to need another six or seven battery mega-factories, as we're certainly not able to sustain the current demand if we remain reliant on other countries."

Luke Gavin, Co founder of Elmo, agreed the announcement is an important step in the UK becoming more self-sufficient in the EV supply chain.

"Not only is it positive economically in terms of job creation and the potential partnerships with car manufacturers (i.e. Lotus already confirmed), but it creates greater awareness and advocacy of electric vehicles amongst the general public and in a more widespread manner across the UK," he said.

An increase in EV production within the UK should lead to cheaper EVs and lower lead times for vehicle deliveries, which currently take up to 12 months for some models currently due to semiconductor chip shortages, added Gavin.

 "Hopefully this will herald in a reduction in the regional disparity in EV ownership across the UK and also encourage greater charging infrastructure investment. Ultimately, an accelerated transition to electric vehicles for all UK drivers.” 

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