Britishvolt: Rescue deal doesn’t mean UK will achieve EV goals, analysts say
It is unclear whether the impending takeover of Britishvolt will help the UK realise its electric vehicle ambitions, industry experts have said, as many details in the deal remain unknown.
The collapsed battery start-up is set to be taken over by Aussie rival Recharge, which is owned by New York-based Scale Facilitation Partners.
Administrators EY selected the firm over a number of rival bidders, with a deal expected to be wrapped up within a week.
Frank Barrett, chief executive of accessible vehicle makers WN Vtech, told City A.M. he was unsure if Britishvolt’s revival would boost UK EV production, but he hoped the government would take a more active role in the incubation of a new domestic car industry – with early stage funding for big projects.
He said: “I would expect the UK government to actively engage and assist in this critical capability to avoid either further delays or false starts.”
Gill Nowell, from EV leasing group ElectriX, welcomed the incoming deal for Britishvolt – as she argued it was essential for establishing “that the UK means business.”
Nevertheless, she argued there needed to be a focus on building up scale beyond the factory if the UK wanted to sustain any aspirations of being a major EV player.
She said: “The purchase of BritishVolt by Recharge Industries help the UK realise its EV ambitions, it will create essential jobs and signal to the car manufacturers that the UK means business. It’s also crucial the UK develops a number of gigafactories to secure a future and our chances of being competitive in the EV market.”
Experts await more details of Recharge’s plans
Britishvolt secured over £2bn in private funding for its £3.8bn plant, alongside a £100m government grant which was contingent on reaching construction targets.
The start-up, however, eventually ran out of resources with Downing Street rejecting its plea for a £30m advance on the grant because insufficient development had taken place at the plant.
This contributed to its downfall last month, with Britishvolt unable to access funds to develop its site without further construction, but was also unable to build more without another cash injection.
Any buyer of the site will have to construct a battery factory within a certain time period, in line with pre-existing agreements – but is unclear if Recharge have to match the pledged scale of Britishvolt’s plans.
Britishvolt was aiming to build was planning to build a 30GWh factory – which would employ about 3,000 workers when operating at full capacity.
It is understood Recharge wants to transfer its lithium-ion battery technology being developed alongside the company’s planned facility in Melbourne, Australia to the UK plant to speed up the site’s resurgence.
Falling from being the centre-piece of the UK’s battery strategy to the secondary hub of an Aussie tech company could be seen as a set back for the firm and the country’s aspirations.
However, Jordan Roberts, analyst at Fastmarkets NewGen, hopes an international coalition could be what keeps the company from collapsing again.
“Recharge’s intentions for the Britishvolt business have not been detailed, but its US ownership and location in Australia, may finally provide the missing pieces of the jigsaw (capital, raw material supply and customers) to get the project off the ground,” he said.