Britishvolt aimed to secure funding for battery R&D and manufacturing businesses in the UK
EY has five days to select a suitor for the failed battery start-up, its intellectual property and remaining staff
Britishvolt administrator EY has shortlisted five potential buyers for the collapsed EV battery start-up, as the deadline to sell it – including its intellectual property and staff – nears.
If a deal isn’t struck over the next five days, the planned factory site in Blyth, Northumberland, will be sold without the IP and employees.
Among the five suitors are Australian firm Recharge Industries, which has existing plans to build a gigafactory in Geelong, near Melbourne, Australia.
Citing three people familiar with the matter, the Financial Times reported that the consortium of investors that tabled a last-minute rescue bid for Britishvolt had also been shortlisted by EY.
Of value to buyers will be Britishvolt’s prototype battery technology – reported to have impressed several car manufacturers and investors and attracted a small order from Mercedes-Benz – as well as its 26 remaining staff, who include many of the firm’s battery experts.
The £100 million grant offered to Britishvolt by the UK government is also expected to be attractive to suitors, although it’s likely that a successful bidder would have to reapply for money, according to the Financial Times.
However, limited development at the Blyth site, plus Britishvolt’s significant debts – reported by The Guardian to be worth as much as £120m – limit its appeal.
Britishvolt’s failure has prompted parliament’s Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee to launch an inquiry into whether EV battery production is viable in the UK or if the importing of power sources is sufficient.
Committee chair Darren Jones said: “This inquiry will look at what’s holding back the development of electric car batteries in the UK and what needs to be done to protect the thousands of jobs across the country in this important sector.
“The future of car manufacturing in the UK is dependent on our ability to make electric vehicles and to be able to export them into the EU. That means we need local supplies of electric vehicle batteries – something we’re failing significantly behind on compared to other parts of the world.”
According to a report by The Faraday Institution, the UK will need around 100GWh of battery supply – equivalent to five gigafactories – by 2030 to satisfy demand for EV production. This will rise to nearly 200GWh – or 10 factories – by 2040.
At the time of writing, the only UK gigafactory to have secured deals with a global cell supplier and a major manufacturer is Envision AESC’s planned expansion at the Nissan factory in Sunderland. It promises an output of 11GWh from 2024, eventually rising to 38GWh, supplying batteries for the next Nissan Leaf.
Britishvolt’s Blyth factory would have added approximately 30GWh to the nation’s total.
The start-up went into administration on 17 January 2023, ending months of difficulties that often landed in view of the public.
Peter Rolton, chairman at the time of its collapse, reportedly told staff that a late rescue offer from shareholders had received investor support but failed to secure the backing of Britishvolt’s main creditors.
That deal included a £30m initial investment for near-total control of Britishvolt, followed by a further £128m injection, said the FT.
It narrowly avoided collapse in November after securing several million pounds in funding, said to be from mining firm Glencore. Combined with a voluntary pay cut for its near-300 staff, this gave Britishvolt sufficient funding to survive until early December.
The company was previously prepared to enter administration after the government rejected a request for £30m (of the £100m promised) in advance funding to prevent its collapse.
Additional reporting by Will Rimell