UK car battery start-up bought by Australian firm – BBC News

  • by Simon Jack
  • business editor

image Source, britishvolt/pa media

image Caption,

An artist’s impression of BritishVolt’s planned factory

Australian firm Recharge Industries has pulled passive battery maker BritishVault out of administration.

Its decline was blamed on a lack of battery experience, proven technology, customers and revenue.

The profile of Recharge Industries is similar in many ways, it is a start up with little experience in manufacturing.

It is an Australian company, but is ultimately owned and run by a New York-based investment fund called Scale Facilitation.

“What we are bringing in is validated technology,” David Collard, the fund’s Australian chief executive, told the BBC.

“It has been validated by the US defense industry and has already been supplied to the UK Navy through a subcontractor.”

big ambitions

The new owners will keep the BritishVault brand name but have very different plans for the future.

The company wants to start by focusing on batteries for energy storage and expects to make those products available by the end of 2025.

image Caption,

David Collard, chief executive of Scale Facilitation

It then intends to make batteries for high-performance sports cars.

The prospect of a much-needed plant producing batteries for high-volume car makers in the UK looks many years away.

But does Mr Collard understand why the government and many in the automotive industry are nervous that it will not meet the needs of UK industry without the involvement of major manufacturers such as Ford, GM, JLR and BMW?

“They all started somewhere before making it big. We have grown rapidly and have been successful in every way,” he added.

Recharge Industries certainly has big ambitions. It plans to build a similar plant near Melbourne in Mr Collard’s hometown of Geelong. He has spent time there fostering relations with government and opposition leaders.

He acknowledged that he had not yet made the same level of connections in the UK, but had engaged with the owners of the Northumberland site.

“I’ve spent a lot of time with Northumberland County Council. They really want the best thing for a Gigafactory and their people,” he said.

Mr. Collard honestly admits that he may not be the right person to do this.

“I’m not saying I’m the best person in the world to run this project, but at the end of the day the administrators had a legal obligation to get the best return possible for creditors – but I think they care.” are, as individuals, what’s going to happen in the future.”

The deal comes just days after Leveling-Up Secretary Michael Gove spoke to the Northern Echo during a visit to Blyth and announced £20.7m of funding for the coastal town.

“The Government is prepared to stand behind the right company with the right investment because we believe a Gigafactory here in Blyth would be an appropriate way of building the skills local people have, and indeed this town has already demonstrated .when it comes to renewable energy and the future of energy,” Mr. Collard said.

The collapse of BritishVolt, with the loss of more than 200 jobs, was seen as a blow to the government’s “flattening” agenda instigated by former Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

The government offered the former owners of BritishVault £100m if they reached certain construction milestones.

Mr Collard said he would happily accept government funding but wanted wider political support. “Anyone can take free money but at the end of the day what we want is bipartisan support and we have that in Australia and America.”

He described the site as “shovel ready”, but said it would be six to 12 months before the first shovel would be used at the site.

Ultimately, he expects the site to create up to 8,000 jobs on site and in the supply chain.

This would be a good result for the region and the UK economy but the project does not yet appear to be the answer to the UK’s growing need for car batteries.

There is currently only one Chinese-owned battery plant in the UK, which is next to the Nissan factory in Sunderland.

35 plants are planned or are already under construction in the EU.

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