AMTE Power and Britishvolt talk up project – reportedly worth £4bn – to feed growing demand for electric vehicles and battery storage
The UK could be on course to deliver its first 'gigafactory', after battery developers AMTE Power and Britishvolt yesterday agreed to jointly assess the potential for a multi-billion pound battery facility capable of feeding rapidly growing demand for electric vehicles (EVs) and power storage projects.
The two British firms have signed an agreement focused around their shared ambitions to create and expand a domestic manufacturing supply chain for a "diverse portfolio" of lithium ion batteries, they said, as transport shifts towards electrification in support of the UK's 2050 net zero goal.
Their ultimate aim is to develop a 30+ gigawatt hour factory - dubbed the GigaPlant - which they claim could create up to 4,000 British jobs, and help curb the need to import battery components from Asia at significant monetary and environmental cost.
At present UK electric car manufacturing is heavily reliant on battery components from abroad, raising significant potential challenges for the sector should trade tariffs emerge in the event of a no-deal Brexit. But while Tesla is planning a gigafactory in Germany and Swedish firm Northvolt has raised $1bn for a similar facility in Sweden, the new plans from AMTE Power and Britishvolt mark the first serious effort to deliver large scale battery manufacturing capacity in the UK.
Britishvolt CEO Leo Carlstrom said meeting the UK government's goal to phase out sales of fossil fuel cars by 2035 or earlier and shift towards a low carbon electricity grid would "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," he added.
The two firms, which came together with the support of the UK's Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), are also both working on their own individual plans to scale up battery making facilities across the UK.
Britishvolt, which was only founded in December, has five potential UK locations for its own large scale facility, and intends to raise £1.2bn next year to fund the first phase of the project to produce 10GWh of batteries, according to the Financial Times
AMTE Power, meanwhile, already operates a battery production facility in Thurso, Scotland, and has plans for another large scale 1-5GWh per year factory that it hopes to bring online in 2023, with two potential sites identified in Dundee and Teesside.
The two firms could potentially even combine their planned sites in order to deliver a much larger-scale battery making facility, they told the FT.
Kevin Brundish, CEO at AMTE Power, said the current coronavirus crisis had further highlighted the need for the UK to have a robust domestic supply chain for batteries, and that 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," he added.
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