The Daily Telegraph

Britishvol­t’s new owners pivot from cars in blow to industry

- By Howard Mustoe

THE new owner of Britishvol­t has announced plans to pivot the business to making cells for energy storage, raising fresh doubts over whether Britain’s car industry will be able to support itself with parts in the transition to electric.

Recharge Industries, the Australian company that has bought the assets of collapsed Britishvol­t, will also make batteries for the defence industry and sports cars, but is shifting away from a focus on fuel cells for mass market vehicles.

The news is a blow for Britain’s automotive industry, which has been warning that manufactur­ers face an uncertain future without a steady supply of locally made batteries.

Batteries are the single costliest component of an electric family car and industry executives are concerned about the long-term viability of car making in Britain if these crucial components are not made near manufactur­ing sites.

Recharge Industries yesterday completed the acquisitio­n of Britishvol­t’s research and its prototype batteries but has yet to buy the site where the company had planned to build a gigafactor­y.

The 235-acre plot in Blyth, Northumber­land, is seen as one of the most promising sites for a battery plant in the UK since it has port access and is close to a railway.

Recharge Industries has until March 31 to buy the site. It has said it plans to manufactur­e in the UK under the Britishvol­t banner.

David A Collard, founder and chief executive of New York-based Scale Facilitati­on, which owns Recharge Industries, told the BBC that Britishvol­t would now build batteries to store surplus power from renewable sources to sell back to the grid.

The company also has technology applicable to batteries for the defence industry and it has already supplied the Royal Navy through a subcontrac­tor, he claimed.

Recharge Industries declined to comment further.

Mr Collard said: “Our proposal combined our financial, commercial, technology and manufactur­ing capabiliti­es, with a highly credible plan to put boots and equipment on the ground quickly.”

His company is already progressin­g plans for a battery factory in Geelong, Australia, and Recharge Industries said it is confident of turning Britishvol­t into “an advanced green energy project”.

More than 200 staff lost their jobs when Britishvol­t collapsed last month. The company was backed by Glencore and had billed itself as the UK’S battery champion. It attracted support from former prime minister Boris Johnson and the Government had earmarked £100m for the company.

However, ministers were reluctant to hand over money after milestones were not met.

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