LI-ION BATTERY Wales, UK could see a new large-scale automotive Li-ion battery plant
In collaboration with start-up firm Britishvolt, the Welsh Government has signed a memorandum of understanding that concerns a plan to develop a 30GWh battery manufacturing plant and 200MW solar farm in the Vale of Glamorgan, Wales.
In June of this year, Britishvolt first announced plans for the UK’s very first ‘gigafactory’ producing batteries for electric vehicles (EVs), citing Wales as its preferred location for the project which is estimated to create around 4,000 new jobs.
Britishvolt, a start-up company, recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh Government, officially giving the theoretical go-ahead for the £1.2 billion project at the automotive and aerospace-focused Bro Tathan Business Park in the Vale of Glamorgan, a former Royal Air Force facility.
No certainty that the plant will be built
Britishvolt said that subject to a successful collaboration with the Welsh Government, it plans to start work on the gigafactory next year. The facility would be one kilometer long and 500 meters wide. It would also include a 200-megawatt solar plant. If built, the plant would whittle 44 Britishvolt locations across the UK to just two—one in the Vale of Glamorgan and the other in Coventry.
There is no certainty that the plant will be built, however. Britishvolt must demonstrate that it’s got the necessary funding to take the project forward and see it through to completion. The company is currently planning to list itself on the London Stock Exchange to raise capital and support fundraising. Britisvolt is also seeing UK Government funding through the Automotive Transformation Fund (ATF). This would enable Britishvolt to produce lithium-ion cylindrical and pouch cells which primarily serve the automotive market.
“A successful outcome of the partnership could enable the scalable production of a world-class portfolio of lithium-ion batteries, creating and expanding an onshore manufacturing ecosystem and supply chain. It is anticipated that the initial £1.2bn of investment from the company could eventually lead to up to 3,500 jobs. Construction is scheduled to begin in early 2021,” a spokesperson said.
Why South Wales?
Britishvolt’s chief operating officer, Orral Nadjari, says that Wales has “a vast, untapped potential,” and that hiring local people, including those who are out of work, and developing strong relationships with local educational institutions will be the company’s main priorities in the region.
"The construction of the solar farm will not only ensure our gigaplant has a near carbon neutral electricity input – complementing our goal of becoming one of the greenest battery producers worldwide – but also provide cleaner energy to the local area.
The pandemic is acting as a catalyst, creating new markets for greener technologies, and highlighting the importance of localized supply chains – which Britishvolt has the backing and resources to drive forward,” he added.
Britishvolt also plans to build a solar park alongside the factory which will support the sustainable production of batteries and meet low carbon goals. This will see the firm play a role in the global green agenda. Indeed, Britshvolt hopes to become one of the world’s greenest battery manufacturers, and this will be facilitated largely by the creation of the solar park.
By Q3 2023, Britishvolt plans for the first stage of its plant to be “fully functional”, with “between 40 and 60 per cent” of the initial £1.2 billion investment injected into the local economy.