Dhe start-up Britishvolt has to build a gigafactory for car batteries insolvency Sign in. This became known on Tuesday. The hopes of the British car industry for larger battery cell capacities of their own initially suffered a painful setback. The majority of the 300 workers were laid off on Tuesday with immediate effect. However, industry and government circles, the BBC reported, still believed that an investor would eventually be found.
Britishvolt, founded in 2019, had planned to build a “gigafactory” in northern England for around 4 billion pounds (more than 4.5 billion euros). In the plant at Blyth should batteries for 300,000 electric cars per year. The Gigafactory was an important building block for the plans for a “green industrial revolution” proclaimed by then Prime Minister Boris Johnson. Britishvolt has developed prototypes for its batteries and has been courting potential customers.
Since last summer, however, the start-up company has been experiencing increasing financial difficulties. A small cash injection of 5 million pounds from a previous investor, the mining group Glencore, didn’t help anymore. However, the promised government funding of 100 million pounds will only flow once the foundation stone of the factory has been laid. Britishvolt had tried until recently to find new investors who should take over the majority of the shares. An Indonesian group and other investors had allegedly reported as interested parties. On Monday, however, the existing investors rejected an offer that startup valued at just £32m – about 95 per cent down on 2022, when investors valued Britishvolt at £800m.
There is a lack of capacity for battery cell production
The schedule for the construction of the battery factory in the port town of Blyth in Northumberland is likely to be further delayed by the bankruptcy process. Only 2024 was planned as the start date. Then it was said that production could start in mid-2025. According to the plans, the plant in Blyth should offer a production capacity of more than 30 gigawatt hours per year (GWh/a) and up to 3000 jobs in the otherwise structurally weak area. All of that is now uncertain. Local Labor MP Ian Lavery called the development “deeply worrying” on Tuesday.
The Britishvolt bankruptcy casts a shadow over plans to electrify the UK auto industry. The government has decided that from 2030 no new petrol or diesel vehicles will be allowed to be registered on the island. However, there is a lack of capacity for battery cell production. So far, batteries have mainly been imported from Asia. There is only a small “gigafactory” of the Chinese group Envision in Sunderland next to the Nissan plant on the island. The Ensivion EASC consortium is planning to build an additional 9 gigawatt hours of production capacity in Sunderland.
According to an estimate by the automotive industry association SMMT, the UK will need gigafactories with at least 60 GWh/a capacity by 2030 to equip around one million vehicles in the country with electric motors. Smaller cars from the Japanese manufacturers Nissan, Toyota and Mitsubishi are mainly produced on the island, as well as almost half a million Jaguar Land Rovers. BMW builds around 40,000 cars a year at the Mini plant in Oxford, but the electrification plans for Mini in Oxford have not yet been confirmed.