Britishvolt bailout is ‘wasted opportunity’: Australian buyers must focus on energy storage, not car industry
The bailout of Britishvolt has been described as a “wasted opportunity” after it emerged the Australian company buying it planned to initially focus on energy storage rather than the automotive industry.
EY directors said they had completed the sale of most of the bankrupt battery business to Recharge Industries.
The deal was backed by Lord Botham, the former England cricket captain who is now a trade envoy between the UK and Australia.
The deal was backed by former England cricket captain Lord Botham (pictured during his playing days) who is now a trade envoy between the UK and Australia
Recharge will buy battery technology from Britishvolt and has until the end of March to complete the purchase of its site near Blyth, Northumberland.
But previous hopes that the site would become a £3.8billion “gigafactory”, producing 300,000 batteries a year for UK-made electric cars, are set to be thwarted.
Instead, the new owners will focus on batteries for electric storage and hope these products will be available by the end of 2025.
It then plans to produce batteries for high-performance sports cars. Professor David Bailey, a car industry expert at the University of Birmingham’s business school, said it was a “disappointment”.
“If they end up buying the site and doing energy storage, that’s a bit of a wasted opportunity, because it’s ideal for a gigafactory,” he said.
A gigafactory is a factory producing batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale. So far the UK has only one – the Envision site in Sunderland, with a capacity of 2 GWh (gigawatt hours), rising to 11 GWh by 2025.
But Britain should reach a level of 60 GWh by 2030 to support the manufacture of 1 million vehicles a year as petrol and diesel cars are phased out, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders ( SMMT).
Britishvolt was seen as crucial in developing those ambitions but suffered a setback when it fell into administration last month, leaving almost all of its 300 staff made redundant.
He was valued at £774million at a fundraiser last February, but reports after he took office suggested he was on sale for around £30million.
EY named Recharge as the preferred bidder for Britishvolt earlier this month and said it considered “several approaches from interested parties” and received “numerous offers”.
The value of the deal – which is expected to be completed within seven days – was not disclosed when it was confirmed yesterday.
“The sale of the business will help support the development of the technology and infrastructure needed for the UK’s energy transition,” EY said.
Recharge founder David Collard said: “We are delighted to have successfully completed our bid to acquire Britishvolt. Our plans are the right ones for the local community and the UK economy.
He said Britishvolt was “ready to go”, but it would take six to 12 months before work started.
SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said the deal showed the UK’s “promise as a battery production site remains intact”.
He added: “We need to ensure that Britain attracts more capacity and capacity for its automotive sector, as the industry has the potential to be a crucial driver in the UK’s transition to an economy zero-emission growth.