In only a short time, Britishvolt has become an established player in the energy sector, with a world-class team of experts and partners focused on building the UK’s first battery gigaplant, developing and manufacturing leading lithium-ion batteries.
It is best positioned to help the UK become a leader in battery production, to support the rapidly developing electric vehicle market and compete with the Asian market which is, currently, far superior.
But what does the UK have to do to win the race? To find out, we speak with Orral Nadjari, the CEO Britishvolt, who explicitly lays out what needs to be done.
“There are several key things that the UK needs to do to become a leader in EV batteries,” he explains. “Firstly, we have to ensure that the UK has a world-class supply chain to support battery manufacturing, in order that we don’t have to rely on imported materials.
“Secondly, we have to ensure that we harness the innovation and research and development capabilities this country has, in order to stay ahead and stay competitive.
“Thirdly, we have to give our customers, UK automotive manufacturers, what they need, tailored to suit them, their products and their customers.”
To top this off, Najdari stresses that it is crucial to get government support to achieve all of this. No one alone can lead this change; it must be a joined-up approach.
Catching up with China
There’s no doubt that China is setting the tone in electrification, both in terms of demand and supply of EVs and the batteries that power them.
Volume as skyrocket, which has driven the price down and impacted the global market. Other countries missed the mark and are now playing catch up.
Ultimately, China has made itself an attractive hub for EV production and will continue to benefit from foreign investment. In turn, this will increase registrations in the global market, especially as technology advances and production costs continue to decrease.
“China got ahead because it saw the opportunity and made early investments,” adds Nadjari. “A huge factor was also the central drive and support from the Chinese government who saw the opportunity and invested. The Chinese battery industry is currently 10 years ahead of us. But I am confident that we can catch up and compete.”
But this new EV market will create the opportunity for the UK to regain its automotive status on the world stage. A strong and vibrant British battery industry can ensure that the UK plays on a world stage.
Nadjari agrees with Jaguar Land Rover’s former CEO, Sir Ralf Speth, who said that without a UK battery industry we won’t have a UK automotive industry.
“That’s obviously a harsh take on the future,” he says. “The reality is though that we need to shore up any potential decline by implementing a localised battery supply chain, allowing our UK-based automakers to have the confidence to develop electric vehicle architectures and manufacture them here. Battery manufacturing is strategically crucial to the UK car industry’s future success and growth.
To do this, the industry needs full backing by the UK government, which will help pave the way to the region’s commercial future in electrification and transport innovation.
Back in 2017, it announced an industrial strategy that has been the catalyst for investment in the automotive sector. However, it needs to invest tenfold in battery technology and manufacturing to ensure the future of the sector and the future of the UK economy.
“Britain is certainly catching up,” says Nadjari. “However, it’s also clear that European governments and the EC, through the Investments of Common European Interest funding mechanism have, to date, invested heavily in establishing and investing in battery technologies and manufacturing.”
Above all else, R&D is everything. To stay ahead in a hugely dynamic and changing industry you have to invest in research and development. Britishvolt is establishing a world-class R&D within the UK, led by its Chief Strategy Officer, Isobel Sheldon and Chief Technology Officer, Dr Allan Paterson.
The UK’s First Gigaplant
Britishvolt’s manufacturing facility will be one of the largest manufacturing plants in the whole of Europe, set on an 80+ hectare that will also co-locate supply chain partners and green low carbon energy production. Keeping supply chains as short as possible and creating a vertically integrated business structure will ensure that costs are kept as low as possible, logistics chains are short and embedded CO2 emissions are minimised.
Nadjari is certain that something like this is essential for the long-term success of the UK.
“An automotive lithium-ion battery is a large and complex component and it makes little sense to import them for economic or sustainable reasons. You should make batteries where you make the electric vehicles. Which is why we need to make them here,” he says.
“At Britishvolt we believe we can compete in the quality of the product and the way that we will be able to adapt that product to the needs of our customers, which in the UK, is populated by many premium carmakers.”
This will attract global automakers and start-ups from around the world to the UK, restoring the region’s automotive presence on the world stage.
“We believe that mass production of lithium-ion batteries in the UK and a strong supply chain will, at first, secure existing investment and then attract more inward investment. Britain is a terrific place in which to do business,” adds Nadjari.
The electric revolution has started and it will continue to gather pace. We will see many more new EVs from carmakers, more consumer adoption and, inevitably, more government incentives to enable people to buy and own them.
Britishvolt’s first battery gigaplant is set to start production by 2023 and be at full capacity by 2027. By 2030 there will be more than one gigaplant in the UK too. “The next decade is going to be full of change and at Britishvolt we intend to be leading that change.”