How the Britishvolt Plant in Blyth, north-east England, will look © BritishVolt

Battery start-up Britishvolt will build the UK’s first gigafactory in Blyth, in a boost for both north-east England and the government’s ambitions of creating a homegrown electric car industry.

The £2.6bn battery production centre will create up to 3,000 jobs by 2027 in the town of 37,000 people 13 miles north of Newcastle and support another 5,000 in the supply chain, the company said on Friday.

Construction at the site is expected to begin in the summer, with the first batteries scheduled for production by 2023.

Blyth Valley MP Ian Levy said the investment was the largest in the region since carmaker Nissan set up its plant in Sunderland more than 35 years ago, which is now worth more than £4bn.

“This is an incredibly exciting announcement that will have a massive impact in the constituency and the surrounding area for decades to come,” said the MP whose victory in December’s general election was part of the Tories’ sweep of Labour’s northern “red wall” seats that propelled Boris Johnson to victory.

The government has tried to attract investment into gigafactories in the UK with the aim of securing a future for Britain’s automotive plants as they shift away from petrol and diesel in the coming decades.

Orral Nadjari, Britishvolt chief executive, said: ‘Blyth meets all of our exacting requirements and could be tailor made’ © Britishvolt

Ministers want to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030, with some hybrid models to be sold until 2035.

Despite investments from global giants such as Panasonic and China’s CATL in other parts of Europe, none of the major international battery producers have set up manufacturing posts in the UK.

Carmakers have warned that an absence of battery plants will make it more difficult to continue producing vehicles in Britain once all sales are electric, because of the cost of importing heavy battery units.

Britishvolt, which was founded last December and is backed by Middle Eastern and Scandinavian investors, has been established to try to build factories in the UK.

The 95-hectare site was selected in part because of its deep sea harbour access — Blyth was once Europe’s largest coal exporting port — and its electricity grid connection. The town is the UK site for the high voltage subsea interconnector linking Norway and Britain.

“Blyth meets all of our exacting requirements and could be tailor made,” said Orral Nadjari, Britishvolt chief executive, on Friday.

“It is on the doorstep of major transport links, easily accessible renewable energy and the opportunity for a co-located supply chain, meets our target to make our gigaplant the world’s cleanest and greenest battery facility.”

Blyth’s fortunes were built on shipbuilding and coal mining in the 18th and 19th centuries but the town has suffered mixed fortunes in recent decades. Its last mine closed in 1986 and an aluminium smelter just north of the town was shut in 2012.

It is the base for the Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult, a research facility that looms above the town centre.

The company considered sites in the Midlands, but Mr Nadjari told the Financial Times the sites did not have strong enough electricity grid connections. Last month the company announced its corporate headquarters would be near Coventry.

It also previously planned to build its first factory in Wales, though the Blyth project will now overtake the potential Welsh site.

Twice weekly newsletter

Energy is the world’s indispensable business and Energy Source is its newsletter. Every Tuesday and Thursday, direct to your inbox, Energy Source brings you essential news, forward-thinking analysis and insider intelligence. Sign up here.

 


Get alerts on UK manufacturing when a new story is published

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021. All rights reserved.
Reuse this content (opens in new window)

Follow the topics in this article