Currently reading: Ex-Ford product chief Joe Bakaj joins Britishvolt
Autocar chats to Britishvolt's new advisor as the battery firm prepares to open its UK gigafactory
Autocar-Felix-Page
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3 mins read
17 March 2021

EV battery manufacturing start-up Britishvolt has unveiled its new board of management as it gears up to begin production at its new site in Blyth, Northumberland, in 2023.

Named as one of the six signings is new advisory board member Joe Bakaj, who joins Britishvolt with 30 years of experience in leadership roles throughout the automotive production sector.

Most recently, Bakaj served as vice-president of product development for Ford of Europe, overseeing the launch of crucial models including the Mondeo, S-Max, Kuga and Fiesta. He also spent time in Ford's Powertrain Engineering division, working specifically on the development of the firm's 1.6-litre and 2.0-litre Ecoboost engines.

Britishvolt claims total investment in its factory in the north-east of England will run to £2.6 billion, making it the largest industrial investment in the area since Nissan founded its Sunderland plant in 1984. It will create around 5000 jobs across the entire supply chain, including 3000 at the site itself.

"The position uses my experience to help the company in any way that I can," Bakaj explained to Autocar. "After 34 years in the auto industry, having worked on three different continents with different teams, I've got a lot of business and international experience, as well as automotive insight."

Bakaj's input will be welcomed by Britishvolt as it looks to ramp up operations at the UK's first 'gigafactory', swelling its team and implementing its series-production manufacturing processes. By 2027, the company plans to be building 300,000 EV batteries per year.

"My vision is well aligned with Britishvolt's strategy, which is one of the reasons why I joined the company," Bakaj said.

"It's around developing sustainable, accessible and differentiated technology for the industry. Across all the segments on which I've worked during my career, from commercial vehicles to sports cars, I know they're going to need different types of battery attributes, trade-offs and performances. And one of Britishvolt's big aims is customisation: working with OEM customers early to tailor batteries for the segment and the image they're trying to develop.

"You can imagine that a commercial vehicle battery will need a lot more durability, or 'life', and maybe not the power that a sports derivative would need."

Bakaj explained that Britishvolt will take advantage the UK's expanding battery ecosystem and take a leading role in modelling, simulation and faster development cycles for prototype batteries.

"If you can be faster on development cycles and you can be on the leading edge with simulation," Bakaj explained, "potentially you can start a bit earlier with your OEM customer and give them more development loops and trade-off flexibility within the battery.

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"You can freeze the design of the battery a little bit later."

Bakaj said that UK universities are conducting some of the best battery development research projects in the world and highlighted the Faraday Institution research body as a particularly valuable resource as UK firms seek to industrialise their battery output.

He said: "My opinion is that, if the technology and chemistry are right, the UK will be a good place to produce batteries.

"I must add that the other elements to being successful are being able to vertically integrate the raw materials, having local supplies and, in terms of the environmental impact, having access to renewable energy at a competitive cost is key."

READ MORE

Start-up Britishvolt to open UK’s first gigafactory in South Wales 

Analysis: How Britain's first gigafactory will change the industry 

Road to 2030: Can the UK really be a leader in electrification?

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