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Failed Britishvolt project bought by Australian start-up

Artist's impression issued by Britishvolt showing a £2.6 billion electric vehicle battery ‘gigaplant' planned for construction in Blyth, Northumberland (Handout/PA)
John Besley and August Graham, PA

An Australian start-up company has taken over Britishvolt, a failed but ambitious multibillion-pound plan to build one of Europe's biggest electric vehicle (EV) battery factories in the north-east of England.

The deal had already been announced earlier this month, but was delayed for two weeks, reportedly as buyer Recharge Industries tried to raise the funds needed to push ahead.

The Financial Times said that the deal was for £30 million and gives Recharge an exclusive option to buy Britishvolt's site in Cambois, Northumberland, before the end of next month.

Recharge declined to comment on these details, but said that it is committed to the project to build a so-called gigafactory in the North East.

“We are thrilled to have been successful in our bid for ownership of Britishvolt; our plans are the right ones for the local community and the UK economy,” said David Collard, the chief executive of Recharge parent company Scale Facilitation.

“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.”

Britishvolt was founded in 2019 but collapsed just three years later, laying off most of its 200 staff.

The company had high ambitions of building a nearly £4 billion battery plant in Cambois, but was unable to secure sufficient funding for the project.

It emerged earlier this month that Recharge had been selected by auditors as the preferred bidder to take over the majority of the business.

In an interview with the BBC, Recharge's chief executive David Collard said the deal had now been finalised.

“What we are bringing is validated technology,” he said.

“The US defence industry has validated it and it is already supplied to the UK navy through a subcontractor.”

Founded in 2022, Recharge is an Australian company which is owned and run by New York-based investment fund Scale Facilitation.

Mr Collard said the Britishvolt brand name would remain, but the business would initially focus on batteries for energy storage.

It then intends to produce batteries for high-performance sports cars, he said.

“I spent a lot of time with Northumberland County Council. They genuinely want a gigafactory and the best thing for their people,” he said.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove previously told the Northern Echo: “The Government is ready to stand behind the right company with the right investment because we do believe that a gigafactory here in Blyth would be an appropriate way of building on the skills that local people have and indeed the edge that this town has already displayed when it comes to renewables and the future of energy.”

The Government had offered Britishvolt £100 million of funding if it hit a set of milestones, which it failed to reach. The money was never released.

Mr Collard told the BBC he would accept Government funding, but desired broad political support for the project.

He said: “Anyone will take free money but at the end of the day what we want is bi-partisan support and we have that in Australia and the US.”

Mr Collard added he hopes the project will create up to 8,000 jobs on site and in the supply chain, with work on the site estimated to begin in six-to-12 months.

EY, the administrator of Britishvolt, said: “The remaining Britishvolt employees have transferred to Recharge as part of the transaction.

“The sale of the business will help to support the development of technology and infrastructure needed for the UK's energy transition.

“The Joint Administrators from EY were appointed on January 17 2023 after the company faced insufficient equity investment for both the ongoing research Britishvolt was undertaking and the development of its sites in the Midlands and the North East of England.”

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