UK’s first car battery ‘gigafactory’ planned

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Two British start-ups, AMTE Power and Britishvolt, have announced plans to invest £4bn in building the UK’s first large-scale battery factory.

The companies have signed a memorandum of understanding saying they will work together on plans for a plant to make lithium ion batteries.

Britishvolt’s chief executive, Lars Carlstrom, said the companies had an ambition to build facilities producing batteries with capacity of as much as 30 gigawatt hours (GWh) a year, which would be roughly equivalent to the joint Tesla-Panasonic Gigafactory operating in Nevada. If the factory becomes a reality it could create as many as 4,000 jobs, according to Carlstrom.

With growing demand for electric vehicles the automotive industry is looking to secure supplies of lithium ion batteries and with no large-scale battery manufacturing facilities in the UK, fears had been raised over the long term future of the country’s automotive industry.

The government-backed Faraday Institution estimates 130 GWh of annual capacity will be required by 2040 if the UK is to retain a large automotive sector.

While European and UK carmakers have tended to import battery cells from China and South Korea, many are now looking to increase domestic manufacturing.

Securing investment in a UK gigafactory has been a top priority for the government’s automotive industry officials, and the Advanced Propulsion Centre helped to organise the tie-up between two start-ups.

AMTE Power runs a small facility in Thurso, northern Scotland, and is looking at sites for a larger plant capable of 1GWh a year. It focuses on specialist markets such as high-performance cars.

Britishvolt has been looking to invest in a larger plant with an annual capacity of 10GWh for batteries aimed at mass-market cars, with the possibility of adding another 20GWh after that.

Britishvolt said that it was confident it could raise the necessary funds, despite the looming coronavirus recession, as investors remain keen on green investment opportunities.