Construction of Britishvolt's £3.8bn gigafactory in Blyth, Northumberland, to produce batteries for electric cars has recently stalled to a halt. With approved government funding, Britishvolt's planned gigafactory was expected to create more than 3,000 jobs and produce electric car batteries en masse - at capacity producing enough battery cells each year for more than 300,000 electric vehicle battery packs.
However, the large up-front costs needed to develop a working prototype and build a factory, combined with competition from international battery suppliers offering cheaper products, led to reduced investment and eventual collapse of Britishvolt into administration. This was not a welcome start to the year in Blyth, with the majority of Britishvolt's 300 staff being made redundant, and with construction having barely started on the gigafactory.
Australia and US-based company Recharge Industries is poised to take over Britishvolt, having been named as the preferred bidder. Recharge Industries has pledged an investment of £3.8bn, which would more than cover the debt owed by Britishvolt.
Recharge Industries holds exclusive licensing of IP in advanced battery technology in Australia through its US technology partner, C4V. Recharge Industries has sub-licensed IP to another entity, Recharge Production, in order to establish large-scale lithium-ion battery production in Victoria, Australia, and to a further entity, Recharge Dynamics, to enable research aimed at reducing battery cell waste.
Recharge Industries now has the support of Tees Valley Lithium (TVL) in supplying materials for its future Northumberland gigafactory, with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with TVL to supply lithium hydroxide. TVL has agreed to supply tolled lithium hydroxide to Recharge Industries from its facility in Teesside - about an hour's drive south of Blyth. TVL and Recharge Industries have also agreed to work together to jointly source lithium spodumene to be used in TVL’s refinery in Port Hedland, Western Australia for conversion to lithium sulphate to be shipped to Teesside for conversion into lithium hydroxide.
I have a vested interest in the gigafactory planned for Blyth - I grew up in Whitley Bay, just down the road from Blyth, and my grandfather worked at Blyth Power Station, which was situated on the site now planned for the gigafactory. Recharge Industries' takeover of the gigafactory site in Blyth seems all but final, and I have my fingers crossed that the site that was once a thriving power station will become a successful and sustainable battery plant.