Once upon a time, London-based Britishvolt had aspirations of championing sustainable, low-carbon batteries, and had a plan to realise a £3.8 billion manufacturing plant in Cambois, Northumberland. The factory was to be built on the site of the former Blyth Power Station, and would welcome some 3,000 jobs, particularly in an area of the UK that’s been relatively marginalised when compared to the South of England.
After seemingly securing £100 million in funding from the UK government, one that was dependent upon certain construction milestones being met, Chief Strategy Officer at Britishvolt Isobel Sheldon commented that the “overwhelming majority of investment for the project will come from private sources,” all seemed well, and full speed ahead, right? Well, not so much.
Towards the end of 2022 reports started surfacing that Britishvolt was in trouble, and fast. These rumours were then confirmed in a statement issued by Britishvolt noting that workers would take a 'substantial' pay reduction, with senior management foregoing a paycheque at all that month, as the company made moves to obtain a 'more secure funding position', namely via 'several more international investors'.
As first reported by the BBC just midnight yesterday, we now know who at least one of these international investors was, Geelong, Australia’s Recharge Industries, a firm that is ultimately owned by New York-based Scale Facilitation.
In the same filing by the BBC’s Business Editor Simon Jack, David A. Collard, listed on Linkedin as both Founding Partner at Scale Facilitation, and Founder at Recharge Industries, commented, "What we are bringing is validated technology. The US defence industry has validated it and it is already supplied to the UK navy through a subcontractor."
Under the acquisition, Britishvolt will retain the brand name. Still, its new owners say that they have very different plans for the future of the company and will first focus on batteries to be used for energy storage, and then, and presumably only then, move into producing batteries for high-performance sports cars. As a reminder, even Ferrari has gone electric.
As for the 3,000+ jobs that were once planned and promised to the Northumberland County Council, in the same interview with the BBC, Collard noted that Recharge Industries is planning a factory similar to the one once slated for the north of England, and could not say whether Britishvolt’s new owners planned to do the same.
“Backed by our global supply chain, strategic delivery partners and a number of significant customer agreements in place, we’re confident of making the Cambois Gigafactory a success and growing it into an advanced green energy project. We can’t wait to get started and want to start as soon as possible," said Collard in a statement issued by Scale Facilitation.
“The North East of England has a real depth of history and talent in manufacturing and engineering. I recently spent time in the area to get to know the people and the site, and I was struck by the similarities to our Recharge Industries site in Geelong, Australia."