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Two minute explainer: UK electric car battery manufacturing

With support from the government, companies are racing to build the UK's first Gigafactory

car battery

As Britain and the world tapers off production and sales of petrol-powered cars, demand for battery-powered electric cars is stepping up a gear.

This, in combination with rules on how car makers can access European markets under the Brexit deal, means more automotive components need to be manufactured in the UK.

For electric car batteries, there are also weight issues, with the power unit of a car weighing from around 300 kg for a Nissan Leaf, to more than 500 kg for a Tesla and more for some sports cars like Jaguar’s I-Pace.

Because of the weight, manufacturers want their battery plants to be fairly close by.

So to guarantee the UK can manufacture electric cars, there needs to be a step up in investment in gigafactories, as well as other elements of the supply chain.

BritishVolt is one of the companies that is aiming to be the first to develop the UK’s first full-cycle battery cell 'gigaplant'.

In December it announced its plan to raise £2.6bn to build a factory on the site of the old Blyth Power Station in north-east England, with construction slated to begin this summer in order to start production a the end of 2023.

Orral Nadjari, founder and chief executive of Britishvolt, said last month that the company is “making excellent headway in our mission to build the UK’s first battery gigaplant and are firmly on track”.

Further down the line is AMTE Power, which is preparing to float on AIM in March and already is one of only five commercial battery cell manufacturers in the UK.

As well as its purpose-built cell manufacturing facility at Thurso, Scotland, which has the second largest cell manufacturing capacity in the UK, AMTE also intends next year to commit to building a second UK manufacturing facility with a capacity of around 2GWh per year.

Its most developed product is for the automotive battery cell market, a re-chargeable pouch format battery cell, which is being developed in conjunction with several specialist automotive manufacturers and component suppliers, and “has the ability to deliver power consistently at a very high rate, thereby enhancing acceleration in high-performance vehicles”.

Outside of the auto market, AMTE also has a cell for the oil and gas market, for which is has a seven-year commercialisation contract to develop and supply agreement a "UK based, international, Tier 1 oil and gas industry equipment provider", and is developing a differentiated product for the energy storage systems market, whether for self-sufficient microgrids or larger industrial systems.

In a statement confirming the IPO plans, founder and chief executive Kevin Brundish said: “We have also been working with the UK government on our plans for building a British gigafactory which is part of the company’s medium term outlook. However, today’s announcement is about funding the final development and production of the company’s three advanced battery cells where we see significant commercial opportunities.”

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