Could Britain soon get its first gigafactory?

Faraday Institute, Gigafactories

A Coventry-based company wants to build and operate the UK’s first gigafactory.

Britishvolt has announced plans to investigate collaborating to build the UK’s first full cycle battery cell gigaplant, which could reportedly cost close to £4 billion, to service the automotive and energy storage markets. It has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Scottish battery manufacturer AMTE Power. to investigate collaborating to build the UK’s first full cycle battery cell GigaPlant, servicing the automotive and energy storage markets.

Locations shortlisted are Dundee and Teesside.

Orral Nadjari, COO at Britishvolt said: “We have meticulously analysed several potential sites and have down selected five, ranging across the UK. Our selections are based on a number of factors including import/export accessibility and proximity to green energy sources.”

The companies began their discussions after having been introduced by the Advanced Propulsion Centre in Coventry.

AMTE Power’s 1 gigawatt-hour specialised plant would cost in the order of £200 million to build, while Britishvolt aims to initiate a phased plan, with £1.2 billion of initial investment needed for the first 10 GWh plant, and another £700 million earmarked for the second 10 GWh stage of expansion. Finally, Britishvolt aim to reach a 30 GWh capacity by 2025/26 with a final £700 million round of fundraising.”

The companies are hoping for government support. Orral Nadjari added: It would be very difficult to execute our plans without significant government support. They will need to bear in mind the number of jobs such a project would create, and on top of that the impact it would have on the local area where we choose to build the Gigaplant. A recent study estimated around 60,000 jobs are associated with engine manufacturing in the UK and they are a significant net exporter- we would need an electrified vehicle component supply chain, including batteries, to replace those jobs. Finally, a successful battery industry could help create up to two thousand R&D jobs in this sector.”

The term ‘gigafactory’ was coined by Elon Musk as a name for one of Tesla’s lithium ion battery and EV manufacturing plants, such as the ‘Gigafactory 1’ plant located in Nevada. It is now used more widely to define any large battery manufacturing plant, such as the Northvolt gigafactory in Sweden. A typical gigafactory produces cells and modules used in EVs, as well as undertaking wider activities such as laboratory analysis, prototype engineering and R&D.

In a statement, Britishvolt said: “The United Kingdom is the most vibrant and progressive country for industry investments. It is where both history and the future combine to create a new era. Britishvolt is dedicated to supporting sustainable energy storage by producing high performance lithium ion batteries. Our aim is to establish the United Kingdom as the leading force in battery technology with a target product launch date of 2023. The Britishvolt GigaPlant will be situated in 80+ hectares of green industrial park, with a production capacity of up to 35 GWH.  Britishvolt will be a global leader in producing high performance green lithium Ion batteries. It will become one of the largest industrial investments in British history.”

The successful outcome of the collaboration would enable scalable production of a diverse product portfolio of lithium ion batteries to support the country’s Road to Zero targets and unprecedented transition to electrification.

Kevin Brundish, CEO at AMTE Power, said: “We are delighted to be working with Britishvolt exploring the creation of a large scale manufacturing facility in the UK, and thank APC for introducing us. The recent global crisis has further highlighted the importance of having a robust onshore supply chain, and the creation of a GigaPlant would place the UK in a strong position to service automotive and energy storage markets. The scalable production of lithium ion cells is key to electrifying vehicles and would drive new manufacturing revenues and new employment, and can be built on AMTE’s focus on the supply of specialised cells, thereby continuing the country’s tradition of excellence in battery cell innovation.”

Lars Carlstrom, CEO at Britishvolt, added: Aligning our objectives with AMTE Power, who are looking to add to their current manufacturing capabilities in the UK, our ambition is to build a 30+ gigawatt hour factory with the support of the British Government, creating up to 4,000 jobs in the process.

“Meeting Road to Zero targets and moving the UK into a low carbon economy will necessitate the unprecedented electrification of vehicles, and reliance on renewable energy will require extensive battery storage. It is costly and carbon-intensive to have lithium ion batteries imported from the Far East, and this GigaPlant would cement a solid onshore supply chain to ensure quality and eliminate future uncertainty of supply.”

Ian Constance, CEO of APC, said: “Positive changes in consumer perception leading to increased demand and technological advances in battery innovation make for a healthy electric vehicle landscape. The UK is a highly credible location for green growth investment. It has a rich and diverse supply chain, a rapidly decarbonising energy supply and an innovation culture, and government support through a strong industrial strategy. As the pace and scale of change accelerates towards new net zero targets the UK is in a prime position to design, develop, manufacture and export high-value battery technologies. It is a positive testament that AMTE power and Britishvolt recognise the full potential of the UK and have identified it as a priority for their battery industrialisation explorations.”

AMTE’s battery production facility in Thurso, Scotland, is the largest full cycle cell manufacturing plant in the UK, supplying products into specialised markets. AMTE power has designed a large-scale 1-5 GWh/annum production facility, which is scheduled to be online in 2023.

The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) accelerates the industrialisation of technologies which will help to realise net-zero emission vehicles. It is central to the UK government’s commitment to end the country’s contribution to global warming by 2050.

Since its foundation in 2013, APC has funded more than 110 low-carbon projects, involving more than 290 partners. The technologies developed in these projects are projected to save over 179 million tonnes of CO2, the equivalent of removing the lifetime emissions from 6.5 million cars.

According to The Faraday Institution, the UK’s independent institute for electrochemical energy storage science and technology, By 2040, eight gigafactories will be needed in the UK and consequently employment in the automotive industry and battery supply chain could increase from 186,000 to 246,000 jobs.

It may take up to five years to design and then build a new gigafactory in the UK.  Over the longer term, The Faraday Institution forecasts demand for EV battery production in the UK to reach 130 GWh p.a. by 2040.4 This would support about eight gigafactories in the UK assuming each plant has a production capacity of 15 GWh p.a. Such domestic demand (which assumes no battery import or export) represents 11 per cent of the projected 1,200 GWh p.a. of European battery production.