West Midlands Gigafactory give a CGI preview of factory plans
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Elon Musk’s Tesla, as well as a host of other companies, may put in bids for a prime site for the UK’s first gigafactory (a major plant producing batteries for electric vehicles [EVs]) after BiritshVolt filed for insolvency, Express.co.uk has exclusively been told. A market source has hinted that major firms like Telsa, Tata (Jaguar and LandRover [JLR] owner) and Northvolt AB, could throw their hats in the ring as they compete to take control of the prime site in Blyth, Northumberland, where BritishVolt had been planning to set up a £3.8billion gigaplant.
It comes after lawyers for the British start-up filed a notice of its intention to appoint administrators with the insolvency court, resulting in 206 redundancies. BritishVolt’s hope of a gigaplant in the North East may be dead in the water in what may initially appear a huge blow for the UK’s EV rollout. But the interest in the site could help keep the Government’s hopes of phasing out petrol and diesel cars on schedule alive.
A metals trader, on condition of anonymity, told Express.co.uk: “It’s highly likely that companies such as Tesla, Northvolt AB, Tata (which owns Jaguar and Landrover), Freyr, Rivian, and other European battery cell developers and producers are looking at the business.
“It has promising technology and a site that is probably, if not definitely, the best in the country. Supportive policy is what’s really needed, especially after the US turned up the heat with the Inflation Reduction Act.
“Risk is, all the talent slinks off to the US and the UK is left dead in the water. That would be truly heartbreaking. What we need now is collaboration. As such I predict plenty M and A on the European battery patch in the next few years.”
However, Sir John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, told Express.co.uk that he agreed the project “could be revived”.
He said: “Everybody thinks it is a good idea that we make more gigafactories in Britain and everybody says that this is quite a good site, but it would require someone with the money, the vision and the management skill to turn that into practice.”
However, Sir John warned that the UK still may not be ready to meet the Government’s target to ban petrol and diesel car sales by 2030.
He said: “The Government is trying to go too fast, top-down, by saying they are going to stop people making and selling petrol and diesel cars before they have got in place all the replacements that people want to buy.
“In order for this revolution to take off…it needs the enthusiasm of customers. We are lacking the Mini or the Beetle of the electric cars at the moment.”
But according to Frank Barrett, CEO at sustainable vehicle manufacturer WN VTech, BritishVolt’s insolvency “does raise a degree of concern for the UK’s EV rollout”.
He told Express.co.uk: “The Britishvolt insolvency does raise a degree of concern for the UK’s EV rollout. However, it was a very ambitious plan to begin with. Creating an entire factory to make electric car batteries from scratch with little previous specialist understanding of the market and products, was always going to need a fair bit of time to build credibility and reputation.
“These unfortunate circumstances have brought conversations about the wider UK EV market to the forefront. For many in the industry, there are growing concerns that there is no real governmental appetite to support establishing the industry in the UK.”
While he noted that all hope was not lost for the future of the UK’s EV rollout, Mr Barrett warned that crucial steps must be taken by the Government to help facilitate the industry’s growth and do its best to attract investment.
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He said: “The UK has tremendous talent and understanding of the EV sector and its required technology. But without the backing to transfer our skills and knowledge into production capability, I fear we may get left behind. Not only could we miss out on opportunities for our talent, but without change we may have no seat at the table of vehicle manufacturing at all in the future of the industrial sector.”
“It’s too early to say if an offer for this specific venture will materialise. But unless we have more attractive incentives in the next two years specifically, we might get stuck behind the curve forever when it comes to EV manufacturing in the UK.
“Personally, I believe with enough desire from the UK government, we can attract good investment to supercharge our EV market.
“The UK is blessed with both locations and skills, and there is so much opportunity for the EV industry here with the right circumstances. The North of England has always been a manufacturing heartland, with the North East hosting the largest manufacturing plant in the UK today. Likewise, the North West of England’s tech and innovation sector is developing rapidly, making it a prime spot for specialist vehicle tech.”
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