► Britishvolt takeover finalised
► Australian Recharge Industries makes deal
► What next for gigafactory plans?
Australian start-up Recharge Industries has finalised its takeover of the Britishvolt gigafactory project, after it went into administration.
This was after Automotive News Europe cited sources close to the administration process and named Australian battery start-up Recharge Industries and a consortium of former Britishvolt investors as potential suitors. Both entered offers before the 1 February deadline set by administrators handling the sale.
The takeover signals that the ambition for the UK to build its first gigafactory is not yet dead. However, there remain numerous obstacles for this dream to be realised.
More on UK gigafactories
Who are Recharge and what happens now?
Recharge Industries is an Australian start-up that’s essentially aiming to do the same thing Britishvolt’s been trying to do in the UK: manufacture lithium-ion batteries for the commercial market.
On Monday 27 February, a statement was released saying that Britishvolt Limited completed the sale ‘of the majority of the business and assets’ to a new subsidiary of Recharge: Recharge Production UK Limited. The statement also says that ‘the remaining Britishvolt employees have transferred to Recharge as part of the transaction.’
The sale was handled by EY – one of the ‘Big Four’ accounting firms, who brought in administrators to handle the sale, with EY saying that Britishvolt ‘faced insufficient equity investment for both the ongoing research Britishvolt was undertaking and the development of its sites in the Midlands and North East of England.’
EY added in its statement that ‘the sale of the business will help support the development of technology and infrastructure needed for the UK’s energy transition.
Why Britishvolt collapsed into administration
The start-up battery maker that deigned to bring large-scale electric car battery production to the north of Britain collapsed into administration on 17 January 2023. Britishvolt made the majority of its 300 staff redundant with immediate effect after its funding ran out. Accountancy firm EY was appointed as administrator.
Britishvolt had been planning to build a £3.8 billion large-scale battery manufacturing factory in Northumbria in what was touted as the biggest investment in the north east since the arrival of Nissan in 1984. The factory would have become the fourth largest building in Britain (see artist’s impression below) and was designed to power the national transition to electric cars.
The company was founded in 2019 with the aim of becoming the UK’s homegrown battery specialist to build millions of EVs. It was a key pillar in the government’s national plan to become carbon-neutral by 2050. Currently, the only battery facility of any scale is the facility supplying Nissan’s Sunderland factory.
The project promised the creation of more than 3000 skilled jobs and a further 5000 in the wider supply chain. However no major contracts had been struck, despite preliminary research deals with Aston Martin and Lotus, and funding for Britishvolt quickly ran out.
In 2022 the government refused to advance £30 million from a promised £100m in support packages, citing how the company had failed to meet milestones agreed as part of the funding pledge.
What next for Britishvolt?
Collapsing into administration looked to end the three-year vision for the business before it was taken over by Recharge. The Blyth site is widely seen as a suitable location for a gigafactory, thanks to strong transport links, proximity to the new North Sea Link interconnector bringing 1.4Gwh of clean energy from Norway (vital for reducing the environmental impact of battery production) and a skilled workforce nearby.