Britishvolt: Australian startup chosen as preferred bidder to revive Gigafactory plans

Pictured: A CGI impression of the planned Blyth gigafactory

National media outlets across the UK are reporting that Recharge has entered into an agreement to purchase Britishvolt’s business and assets. EY, which has been managing Britishvolt’s administration process, has publicly stated that it expects the acquisition to be complete within seven days.

Little information about the scale of the bid has been disclosed, but it has been described as “aggressive”. Aside from a high offer, Recharge has benefitted from its existing partnerships to procure raw materials and its existing battery technology arrangements.

The Financial Times has reported that, aside from Recharge, Britishvolt’s administrators also received at least three other major bids.

Recharge Industries is like Britishvolt in that it is widely regarded as a startup or scaleup. It is yet to complete a major project of its own but is working on a battery factory in Victoria, Australia, at present. Provided that the deal goes ahead, both projects should be completed to similar timescales.

Before entering administration last month, Britishvolt had had been seeking to develop a 30GWh Gigafactory on a 93-hectare site in the North East of England. It was hoped that the £3.8bn Gigafactory would begin producing batteries next year and expand to full capacity – 300,000 battery packs each year – by 2028.  It had gained planning permission in 2021 and begun early works on site.

It is understood that the takeover deal will see these plans resurrected. Recharge may well tweak them slightly and we can expect more information on any proposed changes in the near future.

While the Britishvolt factory, set for Blyth, will manufacture battery packs for electric vehicles (EVs), Recharge Industries’ work in Australia also covers larger battery arrays for applications in sectors such as power and utilities and defence.

Gigafactory pipeline

Other UK Gigafactories in the pipeline include Coventry’s flagship project and a 9GWh facility in Sunderland, operated by Nissan in partnership with Chinese battery maker Envision.

The UK Government has already been urged several times to set more robust plans for growing the nation’s Gigafactory stock this decade, to avoid relying on imports and therefore missing out on opportunities for green job creation and international battery trade.

Shortly after Britishvolt entered administration, the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS) Committee launched a new inquiry into EV battery manufacturing in the UK. The Committee is accepting written evidence until Tuesday 14 February and will arrange hearings after that. It has stated that it is concerned that the UK will rely primarily on imported batteries as the 2030 end-date for the sale of new petrol and diesel vans and cars looms, thus missing the potential socio-economic benefits of scaling its own EV battery industry.

Chris Skidmore MP last month published the findings of his Net-Zero Review into how the UK Government can achieve its 2050 climate goals in a ‘pro-growth’, ‘pro-business’ way that also contributes to levelling up. The Review makes more than 120 recommendations and argues that the Government is not yet close to realising the full opportunities of the transition.

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