Gigafactory to make UK 'leading force in battery tech'

15 December 2020

Britishvolt is planning to build the first UK-owned battery gigafactory as the country expands electric car production.

The $2.6bn gigafactory is expected to manufacture up to 300,000 lithium-ion batteries and provide up to 8,000 jobs at the facility and the wider supply chain upon completion in 2027.

The factory is “strategically important for the UK automotive industry” and will mark one of the largest UK industrial investments since Nissan’s Sunderland factory, built in 1984.

Britishvolt said it was aiming to make the UK "the leading force in battery technology".

Construction will begin in the summer of 2021 at the site formerly known as the Blythe Power Station in Northumberland.

The term gigafactory refers to large-scale manufacturing plants designed to produce batteries with gigawatt-hours of storage capacity, first coined by Elon Musk when he built the Tesla battery factory in Nevada. 

"The UK is the right place for its investments because of the strength of its automotive and energy industry, its expertise and history of industrial and academic battery research and development," Britishvolt said.

The development comes at a time when the UK is ramping up electric vehicle manufacturing as the UK aims for net zero. Plans were announced in November to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans in the UK by 2030 and ensure all new cars and vans will be emission free from 2035, with a £1.3bn investment going towards providing more charging infrastructure across the UK.

Britishvolt CEO Orral Nadjari said: “Now we can really start the hard work and begin producing lithium-ion batteries for future electrified vehicles in just three years. It is crucial for the UK automotive industry and for the entire economy that we are able to power the future. The sooner we start, the better.

“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.”

Northumberland County Council has supported the development and Ian Levy, Blyth Valley MP, said the gigafactory will have a "massive impact" on the area for decades, bringing economic prosperity and returning it to an “industrial powerhouse”.

There hasn't been a comparable project in the North East "since Nissan invested in Sunderland more than 35 years ago", he added.

Meanwhile, government procurement of vehicles needs to be updated to align with net zero, with the National Audit Office pointing to "slow progress” in meeting a target that 25% of the government’s car fleet should be ultra-low emission vehicles by 2022.

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