Currently reading: Analysis: How Britain's first gigafactory will change the industry
British car makers are in talks with a firm that plans to produce EV batteries in Wales
Rachel Burgess
News
5 mins read
24 August 2020

British car makers are already in talks with new start-up Britishvolt to source EV batteries from its UK gigafactory, which is planned to open in 2023.

The company, which was founded only late last year, said confidence from the industry in its plans has grown following its commitment to a site in South Wales, including obtaining the relevant planning permissions.

Britishvolt chairman Lars Carlstrom said: “Car manufacturers understand the importance of batteries that are locally produced. It has taken some time to bring confidence. People need to see we’re investing money and are intending to do this, that it’s not just something we say we’re going to do.

“Now we’re deploying a workforce to build the factory and getting planning permissions, we’ve seen greater interest. We’re now in talks with a number of British makers. We’re also talking with some of them about developing [bespoke] batteries to fit their products, as part of their development team.”

The upcoming gigafactory, billed to be the UK’s first, is a 2.7-million-square-feet site at a former RAF base in Bro Tathan, Wales – closely situated to Aston Martin’s new St Athan factory, home of the DBX SUV and its future electrified cars. It’s planned to open with an annual output of 10GWh – enough for 130,000 EVs – and hit 30GWh by 2027, eventually creating up to 4000 jobs.

So far, all investment has come from Britishvolt itself, although it’s relying on government support as well.

“Full planning permission is out of our pockets,” Carlstrom said. “We’ve had no support or funding so far. We’re quite sure we will have funding from the UK government up to a certain extent; we need to negotiate how much, of course.”

Britishvolt’s 10GWh factory is expected to cost £1.2 billion, with another £1.4bn required to reach its full 30GWh capacity. A gigafactory has long been seen as vital for the survival of Britain’s automotive industry. Last year, Jaguar Land Rover’s outgoing CEO, Ralf Speth, said: “If batteries go out of the UK, then automotive production will go out of the UK.”

More recently, Mike Hawes, the head of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, said during an Autocar Business Live online interview: “The key thing we need is a battery plant. Without that, we’re going to be in trouble.”

The government has also voiced its support. So far, it has invested £128m in battery-related development including the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, saying it would “provide a stepping stone for our ambition for a gigafactory in the UK”.

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Other than Britishvolt, the only name associated with a possible UK gigafactory recently is a very obvious one: Tesla. Back in June, there were reports suggesting that the American firm was evaluating a potential location in Somerset.

Britishvolt has made major strides during the pandemic, according to Carlstrom. “It’s given us the opportunity to be on the front line as competitors have left the scene,” he said. “With Brexit, many rivals were worried, and when Covid-19 hit, all competition left. We’ve worked very hard during this time to achieve a lot in the UK.”

While Carlstrom expects Britishvolt to open the first large-scale EV battery-making facility in the UK, he predicts there will be two or three other similar sites in the future. He explained: “Demand in the UK in 2025 to 2027 will be 50GWh, and we’re building a factory for 30GWh. Demand is so much higher than supply.

“The risk is fairly low with us. If we [the UK] don’t get an EU trade agreement, it will affect Jaguar Land Rover, for instance. Fewer cars means fewer batteries. But we’re not worried; we have great attention from many OEMs in the UK. We’re very optimistic about the current market.

“We’ve had our eyes for a long time on the UK; Europe is more competitive in terms of other facilities. We’re living in a perfect storm. I think it’s a bit strange that no one has identified [what’s needed]; there seems to have been some paralysis in the UK about Brexit. We’re in a really perfect place for building this factory without competition.

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“Our goal is to be the most sustainable [EV] battery manufacturer in the world. We’re working hard with the supply chain to bring it as close to the UK as possible.”

Carlstrom predicted that importing batteries from Asia, where the majority are currently produced, will eventually incur taxes. “Batteries are very cost-efficient if you import them from Asia,” he said, “but if you look further down the road, I’m quite sure you will see environmental taxes from Asian imports.

“Transporting heavy batteries has a huge impact on the environment. You can’t say you’re building a sustainable car while transporting batteries long distances.”

Britishvolt has already started to recruit scientists and skilled engineers, and Carlstrom described the UK as having “amazingly skilled professionals within battery technology”. Its most recent appointment is Dr Allan Paterson who joins as chief technical officer. Paterson was previously The Faraday Institution’s head of programme management, leading research into lithium-ion batteries and tasked with garnering industry, academia and government resource to accelerate progress.

The firm is talking to nearby Cardiff University about not only collaborating on research and development but also ensuring that it has a social presence and responsibility.

“If we can educate 14-year-olds about battery research, they can be our skilled workers of the future,” said Carlstrom. Britishvolt has set its sights beyond just batteries for EVs. Before the end of the year, it will announce plans for a second site in the UK, focusing on batteries for power storage.

“Storage is a very important part of the business plan,” said Carlstrom. “There’s a great demand for storage, especially in areas of the world where you don’t have grids but perhaps solar power. That’s what we’re looking into right now.”

READ MORE

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

UK technology firms plot country's first battery gigafactory 

Analysis: Why the UK needs a battery gigafactory - and fast

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jagdavey 24 August 2020

So many new projects coming out of Wales............

So many new projects coming out of Wales........ Aston........TVR (Delayed & no sign of Job 1 or even a factory)........Ineos Grenadier (Cancelled & shipped off to France)..........& now the Welsh Government giving Billions to an unknown start up. They should have given the money to JLR to build a new EV factory on the old Jaguar engine plant at Bridgend (sorry, the Ford plant) & bring all the i-pace production from Austria back to the UK!

Also all this tosh about Brexit too!!! We all know in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit tariffs of 10% will be slapped on British made products. But if there's no deal the Pound will plummet in value to probably by as much or even more than 10% making British products as cheap as Turkish (Ford Transits) or Polish made cars. Ford & the rest won't be able to make a profit on selling their highly expensive German made cars in their number one market, the UK & will have to import them from even cheaper locations like Romania & even India.

xxxx 25 August 2020

Cannot be worse than the current EU gravy train

jagdavey wrote:

So many new projects coming out of Wales........ Aston........TVR (Delayed & no sign of Job 1 or even a factory)........Ineos Grenadier (Cancelled & shipped off to France)..........& now the Welsh Government giving Billions to an unknown start up. They should have given the money to JLR to build a new EV factory on the old Jaguar engine plant at Bridgend (sorry, the Ford plant) & bring all the i-pace production from Austria back to the UK!

Also all this tosh about Brexit too!!! We all know in the event of a "no-deal" Brexit tariffs of 10% will be slapped on British made products. But if there's no deal the Pound will plummet in value to probably by as much or even more than 10% making British products as cheap as Turkish (Ford Transits) or Polish made cars. Ford & the rest won't be able to make a profit on selling their highly expensive German made cars in their number one market, the UK & will have to import them from even cheaper locations like Romania & even India.

In which case various companies better continue to build in the UK, maybe Ford will come back since deciding they could move car building jobs from the UK to the easten Europe and import them tariff free. Big thanks for that one EU

lambo58 24 August 2020

Cant wait to see how this

Cant wait to see how this factory compares to the Tesla Gigafactory in terms of quality, quantity and the cell technology

1stdarkhorse 24 August 2020

Proposed Giga factory in UK

Strongly recommend not building in Wales unless the issues with M4 and other infrastructure are resolved.
Warwickshire or West Midlands would be better connected to motor vehicle manufacturing, Aston Martin and TVR will never be heavy users of EV tech. Perhaps Wales will be ready to contribute to the UK's forth Giga factory!