Huge UK electric car battery factory on ‘life support’ to cut costs

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By Paul Homewood

h/t Dave Ward

From the Guardian:

Construction of a huge electric car battery factory that has attracted tens of millions of pounds of taxpayer cash and been hailed as a flagship project of Boris Johnson’s levelling up policy has been put on “life support” to cut spending, leaked internal documents suggest.

Work on Britishvolt’s 95-hectare site near Blyth in Northumberland has been severely limited until February to minimise spending as it focuses on unlocking its next round of funding and critical power supply infrastructure, the documents suggest.

Britishvolt, which since its formation in 2019 has made a string of increasingly ambitious promises about powering the boom in electric cars, chose the “life support” option in order to “minimise cash out”, the presentation dated 25 July suggests.

Britishvolt and ISG, its main construction contractor, said the pause affected only some parts of the project while they awaited final designs which are due in October. Britishvolt said “life support” in the documents only referred to specific “packages of work as we optimise the design”.

Battery factories for electric cars are seen by the UK government as essential to preserving high-volume car manufacturing in Britain. Business minister Kwasi Kwarteng last month confirmed state support thought to be worth tens of millions of pounds for the factory, which is planned to employ 3,000 people by 2028 in an area previously left behind by industry.

The state support, first promised as early as January, was confirmed on 27 July, two days after the date on the documents seen by the Guardian.

The documents also discuss “mitigations … to deal with immature design and design release delays” ahead of an institutional investor contract due on 5 September.

Britishvolt has attracted an increasingly stellar cast of backers including FTSE 100 commodities trader Glencore, FTSE 100 equipment rental company Ashtead, and Tritax, an arm of Abrdn, a major institutional investor. Aston Martin and Lotus have also formally said they are interested in buying batteries from Britishvolt.

It has said its factory will be the fourth-biggest building in the UK and the sixteenth-biggest in the world.

Britishvolt claims the backing announced so far could eventually be worth more than £1.7bn, a significant share of the estimated £3.8bn that may be required. However, the company will only receive the money in stages as it achieves milestones.

Given the policy decision to ban the sale of conventional cars in 2030, a car battery factory would appear to be a financial banker, with a large, guaranteed market price. Surely then private sector investors would be piling into this project?

Of course, with rocketing prices and global shortages of raw materials, it’s not quite as attractive after all!


AUGUST 12, 2022

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