Preliminary work has begun on Britishvolt’s battery cell factory in Northumberland. The construction of the production facility itself is due to begin in late autumn or early winter this year. Planning permission for the cell factory was granted unanimously by Northumberland County Council in July.
The project, in Blyth, is to be built in three phases of ten GWh each, reaching a full capacity of 30 GWh by the end of 2027. To get things underway, Britishvolt has commissioned construction partner ISG with the preliminary work. ISG will therefore clear the site and take preparatory steps for the utilities and infrastructure of the construction site.
It is not yet known which cell chemistry and formats will be built in Blyth – but it will probably not be cobalt-free cell chemistry, given a recently concluded Glencore deal. In an earlier announcement, Britishvolt specified that the cells would “primarily” be for use in electric vehicles.
The Blyth production facility will be built on the 95-hectare former site of the town’s power station. Once up and running, the company is planning to start production in 2023, according to the latest Britishvolt announcement. In total, the plant is expected to create around 3,000 direct jobs and a further 5,000 in associated supply chains.
Britishvolt described the start of preliminary work as “another milestone on our way to building the UK’s first gigaplant”. Project director Richard McDonell also said that the cells will be produced in a particularly sustainable way.
Indeed, Britishvolt announced its intention to use renewable energy to run the plant in an earlier announcement. The use of Norwegian hydropower via the North Sea connection NSN Link, which is currently under construction, is apparently to be considered. On the British side, the coastal town of Blyth serves as the starting point for the submarine cables. However, Britishvolt has not mentioned anything further regarding this option in its latest communication.
The UK is known to be keen on ramping up its own battery cell production. The UK Battery Industrialisation Centre is one example of this. Moreover, according to a report in the Guardian in mid-June, the government is said to be actively involved and to be holding or to have held talks with six companies. And there have in recent months been reports of efforts in this field.
An electric car battery factory will be built at Nissan’s Sunderland plant in the UK, for example, operated by Chinese battery manufacturer Envision AESC. It is intended to complement the existing AESC plant on-site with its current capacity of 1.9 GWh per year (cells are built for the 40 kWh pack of the Nissan Leaf, among others). There is also talk of quadrupling production by 2024.