UK gigafactory back on track after Britishvolt acquisition

The UK’s first gigafactory moved a step closer after Australian energy company Recharge Industries acquired UK battery technology company Britishvolt.

Recharge Industries is a provider of battery technology, specialising in production and research and development, and is currently developing Australia’s first large-scale lithium-ion cell production facility to provide “safer, more efficient and recyclable batteries, as well as investing in research and development of next-generation solutions to real-world and emerging energy storage solutions”.

Under plans presented by Recharge the Britishvolt project will make the UK’s first Gigafactory in Northumberland a reality, creating a strategic economic and security asset which will play a critical role in the UK’s industrial and net zero strategies, it said in a statement.

Britishvolt went into administration in January after failing to secure a £100 million government support package, seeing just 26 of its 300 employees retained and casting doubt over plans for UK-based EV battery production.

The recharged Britishvolt is expected to provide thousands of green, skilled and local jobs that will drive local and national benefits.

Commenting on the successful bid, David Collard, founder and CEO of Scale Facilitation, Recharge’s parent company, said “We are thrilled to have been successful in our bid for ownership of Britishvolt; our plans are the right ones for the local community and the UK economy.

“Our proposal combined our financial, commercial, technology and manufacturing capabilities, with a highly credible plan to put boots and equipment on the ground quickly.

“Our technology – including an exclusive license for the intellectual property and battery technology – has been developed and validated over the last decade through C4V in the US and will be the backbone of both gigafactories in Geelong and Cambois.

“Backed by our global supply chain, strategic delivery partners and a number of significant customer agreements in place, we’re confident of making the Cambois Gigafactory a success and growing it into an advanced green energy project. We can’t wait to get started and want to start as soon as possible.

“The North East of England has a real depth of history and talent in manufacturing and engineering. I recently spent time in the area to get to know the people and the site, and I was struck by the similarities to our Recharge Industries™ site in Geelong, Australia.

“I was really taken by the passion and pride that the people have for the region and their determination to get behind a project that can drive lasting change. We have the right plan in place, to match and support the region’s energy and ambition to become a major player in the international battery market.”

Scale Facilitation® UK-based advisor, Edward Dawes OBE said “It is tremendous that we have been able to secure this advanced battery facility for the UK. Working with our closest allies, America and Australia, and using world-leading and proven technology, now we can take Britishvolt forward with real purpose.

“Scale Facilitation® and Recharge Industries™ have put in place a hugely talented and experienced team, who are looking forward to moving this project on at pace, aligned to strategically important regional, national and international supply chains. This is good for the UK, good for the employees who are in limbo and good for British consumers.”

Analysts said the news was positive but did little to paper over the wider cracks in the UK’s battery production strategy.

“News that the battery gigafactory in Northumberland will see the light of day now that Australia’s Recharge Industries has taken over will come as a relief to the region, given that swathes of new jobs are still expected,” said Susannah Streeter, head of money and markets, Hargreaves Lansdown. “It will provide little solace for the UK car industry, given that battery storage will be the focus for production, with a shift only to high end sports cars expected later.

“There will be bitter disappointment that the much hoped for new cog in the mass production wheel for EVs still looks a long way off. Battery production hubs closer to car factories are considered increasingly important at a time when global supply chains have turned more brittle.

“It means motor manufacturers with British plants will still be on the backfoot, compared to those with sites across Europe, given more gigafactories are planned on the continent.

“The fact that Recharge is a start-up rather than a larger more established player may raise worries that it may also have bitten off more than it can chew, given the problems encountered by Britishvolt, and the difficulties it faced accessing funding. This turn of events is likely to add to the clamour for the UK government to provide more incentives for home-grown companies investing in clean technologies, with worries mounting that the country could be left behind as big subsidies are being dangled in Europe and the US.’’