Two British start-ups have announced plans to build the UK’s first ‘gigafactory’, which will supply batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage purposes, by 2023.
Scotland-based battery producer AMTE Power and tech start-up Britishvolt have signed a memorandum of understanding to jointly produce battery packs and are considering a public offering to fund the project, which is anticipated to cost up to £4 billion.
The move could be a lifeline for the UK’s struggling automotive industry, which has been identified as less advanced than other countries in terms of EV adoption and infrastructure. Jaguar Land Rover boss Ralf Speth said last year: “If batteries go out of the UK, then automotive production will go out of the UK.”
The planned production capacity of 30 gigawatt hours (GWh) per year matches the output of Tesla’s Nevada facility and could create up to 4000 UK jobs, according to Britishvolt CEO Lars Carlstrom.
Carlstrom said: “Meeting Road to Zero targets and moving the UK into a low-carbon economy will necessitate the unprecedented electrification of vehicles, and reliance on renewable energy will require extensive battery storage.
“It is costly and carbon intensive to have lithium ion batteries imported from the Far East and this gigaplant would cement a solid onshore supply chain to ensure quality and eliminate future uncertainty of supply.”
AMTE and Britishvolt aim to raise £1.2bn in 2021 in order to fund the first of two factories, which will take initial production capacity to 10GWh. Further investment will help them achieve the ultimate 30GWh objective with a second facility.
Automotive News Europe reports that Britishvolt is considering five potential sites between the south-west of England and the Midlands, and that the pair of companies hopes to secure a supply deal with Jaguar Land Rover, which currently uses cells from Korea-based LG Chem.
The site quotes Carlstrom as saying: “JLR is a very important player. And they’re also very picky in terms of having the right product. We feel we will compete with LG Chem on quality and pricing.”
The deal between the two firms was facilitated by the government-backed Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), which encourages collaboration between UK-based start-ups as part of a bid to keep the country competitive in terms of low-carbon powertrain development.
According to the Financial Times, AMTE has already held discussions with various vehicle manufacturers about supplying batteries but needs to scale up its output before it can meet their demands. The firm’s current factory, in the north of Scotland, employs 50 people.