What Next for Battery Production in the North East?

It is with great sadness that we learnt of Britishvolt, a North East Automotive Alliance (NEAA) member company, entering into administration, as widely reported in the press on the 18th January 2023. Leading to over 200 job losses.

The Britishvolt project was one of two major battery Gigafactory developments happening in the North East, with the other being undertaken by AESC Envision adjacent to the Nissan plant in Washington, Sunderland. The new AESC plant is well underway, it will have capacity of 12 GWh and will employ more than a 1,000 people when operational in 2025. AESC already operates a small, but long standing giga factory, within the Nissan site, which was the first of its kind in Europe having been in operation since 2010.

The site that Britishvolt was developing in Cambois, Northumberland, was once the location of Blyth Power Station, a coal fired power station that closed in 2001 and had remained largely untouched since the completion of demolition works in 2003. In addition to that skill base, the legacy of that power station is what made this a perfect site for a large-scale battery manufacturing plant. The power station’s grid connections remained and provided an excellent way to quickly get the required level of electrical power for large scale battery manufacture. In addition, this electrical connectivity was already being used by the North Sea Link, a 1400-megawatt, 720 kilometre subsea interconnector, linking the electricity systems of the UK and Norway, providing access to Norwegian renewable electricity.

Having previously been a major industrial location, the site also offered good road links, freight rail links and proximity to the Port of Blyth, making the transport of materials in and out of the site easy without the need for a major new infrastructure development.

Ryan Maughan, chair of NEAA’s EV North Group, said: “Despite the problems faced by Britishvolt, the Cambois site remains one of the best locations to establish a battery manufacturing plant in the country. The AESC Envision site is now the only new large scale battery plant under construction in the UK and experts agree that there will be a need for up to 8-10 such plants in the future to make battery cells for electric cars, trucks, planes, grid storage and all kinds of other applications.”

Paul Butler, chief executive of the NEAA added: “We are the largest automotive cluster in the UK and remain the powerhouse for UK electrification. We remain committed to supporting our members and the sector and we are ready to assist new inward investors who can take the Cambois site forward.”