West Midlands Gigafactory give a CGI preview of factory plans
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The collapse of Britishvolt, the Britsh start-up that was building the UK’s first £3.8billion gigafactory, was not surprising, according to Aston Martin’s former head honcho. Dr Andy Palmer, who also used to run Nissan, says he has long warned over the UK’s lack of a proper strategy to help grow the EV sector despite its intentions to build at least six battery-making plants on British soil. In a comment piece for City A.M, he stressed that without this, the industry risks collapsing.
In a stark warning, Dr Palmer, who is now the CEO of Switch Mobility and Chair of InoBat, also argued that Britishvolt’s collapse could signal the start of the industry’s downfall. The firm’s plan to set up a gigaplant in Blyth in Northumberland had initially been hailed as a huge win for the UK’s EV industry.
Britishvolt’s formir executive chairman previously explained: “The UK automotive industry needs a local source of batteries. Chinese or other Asian imports are not going to be an option. There will be very, very significant shortfalls of batteries. We are absolutely vital to maintain the UK industry and support those jobs.”
However, lawyers for Britishvolt filed a notice of its intention to appoint administrators with the insolvency court this week, triggering 206 redundancies and an end to its hope of setting up the gigafactory in the northeast.
While he admitted that British consumers would still buy electric vehicles, although not those made in the UK, Dr Palmer noted that the UK desperately needs to slash its dependence on foreign countries for battery production.
Former Aston Martin boss Dr Andy Palmer warned Britishvolt’s collapse could be a bad sign for the UK (Image: Getty )
The plant had been tipped to bring a huge boost to the UK’s EV rollout (Image: Getty )
At present, the large bulk of batteries for EVs are produced in Asia, although the US and EU markets are growing Due to this, Britain still very much relies on other nations to import vital parts required in the EV manufacturing process.
While other firms have been tipped to set up UK-based battery-making sites following Britishvolt’s collapse, Dr Palmer is deeply concerned that the firm’s collapse is an indicator that Britain “does not have the optimum conditions for a battery manufacturer to succeed”.
He claimed that various Governments have repeatedly failed to clock on. Dr Palmer wrote: “Whether it’s Imperial College London working on developing new battery technologies that could significantly improve the range and performance of EVs, or Coventry and Universities helping to drive net-zero trade in rural, emerging markets through electric delivery trucks – we have the brainpower to succeed in this space.
Britishvolt was constructing a plant in Blyth in the northeast (Image: Britishvolt)
“But it appears that message has not been received by successive occupants of Downing Street.”
This comes after the Government reportedly refused to hand Britishvolt a £30milllion advance from the £100million promised early enough to stop the project from collapsing.
This is despite former Prime Minister Boris Johnson hailing plans for the gigaplant after unveiling his 10 Point Plan for a Green Industrial Revolution and levelling-up agenda. This is partially because the construction site in the northeast landed right in the heart of the “Red Wall”, where many traditionally Labour seats were snatched by the Conservates in the 2019 general election.
While anonymous investors later stepped in to fund the project after the Government failed to front the cash early enough, it was evidently not enough to prevent the collapse this week.
According to former Conservative party leader Lord William Hague Brexit is partially to blame for the Birtishvolt’s project not going as hoped.
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Boris Johnson has hailed the plans to build the first gigafactory (Image: Getty )
‘We are lacking the Mini or the Beetle of the electric cars at the moment.’ (Image: Getty )
He told the News Agents podcast: “That is very concerning and it’s a sad reflection probably on Brexit.
“Because what do you need in some of these technologies? You need scale. You need to know there’s a big market. If you’re going to succeed with batteries, you’re going to need big manufacturers to be in the same market using those batteries.”
He added: “So that’s part of the damage that’s been done by leaving the EU.”
Sir John Redwood, MP for Wokingham, told Express.co.uk that the Government “is trying to go too fast, top-down, by saying they are going to stop people making and selling petrol and diesel cars before they have got in place all the replacements that people want to buy.”
He added: “In order for this revolution to take off…it needs the enthusiasm of customers. We are lacking the Mini or the Beetle of the electric cars at the moment.”