Battery-maker Britishvolt going belly-up

Britishvolt, the UK’s hope of constructing a 30 GWh Gigafactory in Blyth, in the northeast of England, is going belly-up as attempts to find last-minute investors failed. The startup collapsed into administration on Tuesday, and most of the 232 employees were made redundant immediately.

Britishvolt had asked the government last year for an advance payment of £30 million of the £100 million promised under Boris Johnson’s administration if certain milestones were met. That didn’t happen, and the payment was refused.

Only one battery factory in the UK

It leaves the UK with only one Chinese-owned Envision battery plant next to the Nissan factory in Sunderland, while in Europe, 35 are planned, the BBC writes. But the national broadcaster adds that both industry and government sources remain confident that this plant will eventually be built – whoever ends up owning it.

In 2021, the UK’s Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) called upon the government to push for gigafactories to boost the country’s automotive industry. The study commissioned by the SMMT pleaded for 60 GWh/year of battery production by 2030. Missing this sharp turn toward electrification could lead to up to 90 000 jobs lost, they warned

Avoiding going down

Of the £3,9 billion needed for the factory, Britisvolt only managed to raise 200 million. In November 2022, the startup avoided at eleventh-hour to go down by securing fresh funding from one of its investors, the commodity trading giant Glencore, averting a collapse in the short term. But on Monday, the board had to conclude there were no new bids to keep the company afloat.

Britishvolt was founded three years ago and had the steep ambition of becoming the only Gigafactory in the UK, offering jobs for 3 000 people in the East Midlands. It had secured partnerships with Lotus and Aston Martin on electric car batteries.

The aim of the MoU was to maximize the performance of special cylindrical high-performance cells developed by Britishvolt in Aston Martin’s electric cars and industrialize modules, packs, and battery management systems.

Prestige project

The government has always been crucial for Britishvolt since it helped to get a commitment of  £1,7 billion from private investors like global investment company Abrdn and logistic buildings specialists Tritax.

It was a prestige project, often cited by UK Ministers as an example of Britain’s coping with modern-day challenges, steering away from the fossil-fuel economy. However, chaotic funding problems have overshadowed the project for some time now. As a result, production’s starting date had already been postponed to mid-2025, from 2023 initially

Ernst & Young (EY), appointed joint administration, will now try to sell the company’s business and assets.

 

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