Australian billionaire to open battery plant in UK after failure of Britishvolt

Business

Britain’s battery sector has been delivered some unexpected good news, after an Australian billionaire told Sky News he will be opening an advanced battery plant in Oxfordshire later this year, creating up to 300 new jobs.

Andrew Forrest, the founder of the Australian iron ore giant Fortescue, said he was expanding operations at WAE Technologies, the technical offshoot of the famous Williams Formula 1 team, which he bought last year.

The new plant in Kidlington will work on batteries and fuel cells which could be used in heavy goods vehicles in the coming decades.

The news comes barely 24 hours after the collapse of Britishvolt, the most prominent independent firm hoping to build a so-called gigafactory, mass producing batteries for electric cars manufactured in the UK.

While the Williams plant has a different focus – on high density batteries for large trucks, such as those used by mining companies – and while its output will be considerably lower than the promised levels of Britishvolt, the news will nonetheless reassure those worried that Britain’s aspirations of developing an EV industry are doomed.

Speaking on the fringes of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Mr Forrest said: “We invested heavily in British technology, British knowhow and British work ethic last year. But then we’ve said: ‘Listen, it’s great you’ve got the most advanced, innovative prototype batteries in the world… but we’ve got to get into manufacturing’.

“So last year, we started building a large factory in Kidlington. We’ll open it in April. It will [create] hundreds and hundreds of new British jobs.

More from Business

“And that’s only the start. I want to expand it from there and I want to take that technology to Australia, to North America. I want to really stop the British brain drain and bring the smartest British engineers… home.

“These are batteries which are going to be everywhere: in motorbikes, cars, trucks, even even our huge mining trucks in Australia, even trains.”

Andrew Forrest, founder of the Australian company Fortescue Future Industries. Photo by: Michael Kappeler/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images
Image:
Billionaire Andrew Forrest, founder of the Australian company Fortescue

Read more:

Why an absence of A-listers at Davos is not just deep trouble for the World Economic Forum, but for globalisation too

The plant at Kidlington will produce up to 400MW/h per year of battery modules and fully assembled integrated power systems – so it cannot be considered a “gigafactory” (which produces more than a gigawatt-hour of cells each year).

Even so, these batteries are aimed at a different market, for higher density, higher performance batteries.

Williams Advanced Engineering hopes to build more of these manufacturing hubs around the world, following the blueprints of the facility in Oxfordshire. They also plan to build a new manufacturing and prototype test facility in the UK, which could create more new jobs.

Articles You May Like

Politicians are not offering a comprehensive solution on how to fix the NHS
Blow to Putin as both Germany and US confirm they will send tanks to Ukraine
Stewart exit continues U.S. leadership shakeup
Man dies after being crushed by pop-up telescopic urinal in London’s West End
Awesome Alibaba: Low-cost backyard construction equipment, batteries included