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Saturday 10th June

Australians have saved British battery manufacturing

Williams Advanced Engineering and now Britishvolt: 'Strayans swing in again to make sure it'll be right

Published: 28 Feb 2023

Australian battery company Recharge Industries has now officially bought Britishvolt, a British (whodathunkit) company that plans to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles up in Northumberland.

After failing to raise enough funds for a £3.8 billion factory in the Port of Blyth, Britishvolt called in administrators, who then struggled to find investors that would satisfy its creditors – i.e. the people it owes money to. As of last month, news reports suggested that Britain’s fledgling EV battery manufacturing industry had been dealt a major blow, detailing the layoffs of some 300 Britishvolt staffers with immediate effect.

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Both Lotus and Aston Martin have previously signed memoranda of understanding (basically an industry version of ‘we plan to, but no promises’) with Britishvolt to use its batteries for future EVs. Britishvolt’s demise would have had serious ramifications for upcoming EVs from both brands. However, as it stands, Britishvolt’s salvation might not be much better for Aston or Lotus – at least in the short term.

While new buyer Recharge Industries has indicated that it does intend to build batteries in Blyth, as per Britishvolt’s original plan, the factory’s first batteries are apparently earmarked for electric energy storage, before adding ‘high-performance sports cars’. Which leads to something of a conundrum.

As reported over on the BBC, by 2026, “the vast majority of a car's value will have to be sourced in the UK or the EU to qualify for tariff-free export to the EU, where most UK-made cars are sold”. If the EU is clamping down on petrol and diesel-powered cars (and we can safely say it is), the British car industry will have to build almost entirely home-made EVs or give up its most lucrative market. Which means Britishvolt’s purported new plans for energy storage leave a significant shortfall at a crucial juncture – even before you factor in the UK’s own plans to bin internal combustion.

So, any other Australians want to ride over the hill and sort that out for us, too?

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