Britishvolt will build its electric car battery factory in the north of England instead of Wales. The new announcement names Blyth, Northumberland as the chosen location, near Nissan and with connections to renewable energy.
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The news remains a surprise though, as previous reports had seen Britishvolt having signed an MoU with the Welsh government. The company had retained at the time that this was preliminary.
The 3,000-job factory will now be built in Blyth, Northumberland after Britishvolt made clear, it would not invest in Wales.
The Welsh Government said the news was disappointing.
British Volt has not given specific reasons for deciding against St. Athans in Wales. However, earlier arguments for the site included the proximity to Aston Martin. Only the Rapid-E has been delayed again as have plans for electrification of the British brand. Aston’s advertising agency had also been involved in spreading a ‘fake science’ report in British media earlier this month.
At the same time, Britishvolt did say why they opted for Blyth. Britishvolt’s chief executive, Orral Nadjar, said: “Blyth meets all of our exacting requirements and could be tailor-made. It is on the doorstep of major transport links, easily accessible renewable energy and the opportunity for a co-located supply chain, meets our target to make our gigaplant the world’s cleanest and greenest battery facility.”
It is also on Nissan’s doorstep, a fact Britishvolt acknowledged when stating that “£2.6bn total investment is one of the UK’s largest-ever industrial investments and the largest in the North East of England since the arrival of Nissan in 1984.” There are no other links known, yet. However, when toying with the idea of building in Wales, British Volt had hoped to tap into skilled workers from the vicinity of Aston Martin.
The company wants to start construction in spring 2021 for the plant to be fully operational by mid-2023. By the final phase of the project in 2027, Britishvolt plans to employ up to 3,000 skilled staff, producing over 300,000 lithium-ion batteries for the UK automotive industry. It will further provide up to 5,000 jobs in the wider supply chain. This corresponds to earlier statements.
However, these earlier statements also mentioned AMTE Power as a partner, whereas the latest communication does not contain any reference to cooperation.
Chief strategy officer Isobel Sheldon emphasised the company continued to raise money and was considering taking to the stock exchange. Britishvolt also said it had applied for backing from a £1 billion British government fund that was announced by British Prime Minister Boris Johnson last month as part of plans to ban the sale of new cars and vans that run solely on petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
Britishvolt is the only company so far to announce plans to build new battery production in the UK. Europe has 15 large-scale battery cell factories under construction such as Northvolt’s plants in Sweden and Germany, Chinese battery maker CATL’s German facility in Erfurt, and South Korean firm SK Innovation’s second plant in Hungary. Tesla is of course, also planning to build both cars and batteries at Giga Berlin in Germany.
The Britishvolt “gigaplant” will be built on a 95-hectare site, formerly the location of the Blyth Power Station. It will use renewable energy, including the potential to use hydro-electric power generated in Norway and transmitted 447 miles under the North Sea via the world’s longest inter-connector from the North Sea Link project. The cable will come out at Blyth.
Update 12 April 2021: Britishvolt has now bought the land for its announced battery cell factory in Blyth in the northern English county of Northumberland and submitted a planning application to Northumberland County Council. The company still needs to raise £1.2 billion (€1.4 billion) to make its plans a reality. However, the company stresses that the land purchase is an important step and means it is on track to start building the factory later this year and producing battery cells by 2023.
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