Battery startups unveil plans to build UK’s first gigafactory

UK battery startups AMTE Power and Britishvolt have announced plans to investigate building the UK’s first Gigafactory.

The two firms have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) pledging to work together on the construction of a plant for producing large volumes of lithium-ion batteries for electric vehicles and energy storage.

Tesla’s Gigafactory 1 near Reno, Nevada

Britishvolt chief executive Lars Carlstrom said that the aim of the two companies is to build a factory able to produce 30 gigawatt hours-worth of lithium batteries per year for the domestic market, thereby providing a much-need boost to the UK’s growing electric vehicle sector and creating as many as 4000 new jobs.

“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,” he said.

Kevin Brundish, CEO of AMTE Power, which already operates a cell manufacturing plant in Thurso, Scotland, added: “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.”

IN DEPTH: POWERING UP A BRITISH BATTERY BOOM

As previously reported by The Engineer there are growing fears that a lack of high-volume UK battery manufacturing capacity could have a disastrous impact on the automotive sector.

As vehicle producers switch to producing greater volumes of electric vehicles, and wind down internal combustion engine production, the concern is that the high cost of importing batteries will erode the commercial case for making cars here.

In a recent report, The UK’s Faraday Institution claimed that to avert this scenario the UK will need to build at least seven 20GWh gigafactories by 2040.

Currently, the UK’s largest battery manufacturing facility is the Envision Sunderland plant which was formerly owned by Nissan. At one time its annual 2GWh capacity made it the largest battery plant in Europe but it is now dwarfed by the scale of facilities elsewhere in the world. Tesla’s Gigafactory 1, for instance, is expected to ultimately have an annual battery production capacity of 150GWh per year.   

Commenting on this latest announcement Ian Constance, CEO of the Advanced Propulsion Centre said: “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.”