The government lacks “innovative thinking” and a “joined up industrial strategy” to support the UK’s electric vehicle industry, the former boss of Britishvolt has said, as a takeover bid for the collapsed battery start-up hangs by a thread.
The fiery backlash follows a statement from EY – the administrators for Britishvolt – that Aussie buyer Recharge Industries had missed a funding deadline for its takeover, which was agreed back in February.
EY confirmed to City A.M. that discussions with Recharge are ongoing and that it has not pulled out of the takeover deal.
Orrai Nadjari, founder and former chief executive, told City A.M. that the company’s spiral into administration in January was a consequence of “external market forces,” but that the “biggest issue” was a lack of industrial strategy and innovation from the government, which persisted nearly seven months later.
“As the saga at Britishvolt continues, more comedies of errors play out at No10. Right now we need real leadership rather than a squabble to grab fringe votes,” he said.
Britishvolt’s former chief of communications Ben Kilbey said that the government should not be complacent in its success of attracting Tata to build an EV factory for its Jaguar Land Rover vehicles – highlighting the plight of battery cell maker AMTE Power which is scrambling for funds to avoid administration.
“Britishvolt has turned into a story that’s difficult to comprehend. From one of the biggest, and most positive, battery narratives in the UK to a basket case. What it highlights is the need for a strong industrial strategy that is proactive in developing investment into the UK,” told City A.M.
Quentin Wilson, founder of EV campaign group Faircharge UK feared that Britishvolt has now become a “lost opportunity for the UK,” with politicians wrongly believing “battery factories should return to profit quickly”.
Britishvolt had high hopes of building a nearly £3.8bn battery plant in Cambois, outside Blyth in Northumberland.
The site would have been the centrepiece for the country’s EV ambitions – potentially kickstarting a new era for the UK’s flagging car industry.
However, the project collapsed into administration in January after talks with investors for a rescue bid broke down.
That collapse also came alongside a government refusal to provide an advance on a £100m grant offered to support the project.
Instead, Geelong-based Recharge stepped in to buy the plant, fuelling hopes that Britishvolt, despite the year of turmoil, could still build its battery factory.
A department for business and trade spokesperson said: “We are developing a globally competitive EV supply chain in the UK by unlocking private investment in gigafactories like the landmark investment of over £4bn by Tata Group announced last month.
“Recharge Industries’ business plans are a commercial matter for the company, and it would not be appropriate to comment on them.”
Recharge has been approached for comment.