Britishvolt boss explains why new Northumberland factory will be vital for future

Northumberland’s new gigafactory – which will manufacture batteries for the electric car industry – will play a major role in the UK automotive industry and the battle against climate change.

By James Robinson
Thursday, 14th April 2022, 10:30 am

That’s the message from Peter Rolton, the executive chairman of Britishvolt – the company behind the plan to create the revolutionary new plant at Cambois, near Blyth.

Speaking at a meeting of Northumberland County Council’s Corporate Services and Economic Growth Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Mr Rolton explained why the plant would be needed for the UK car industry and how it would differ from battery factories currently operating around the globe.

He said: “As of 2030, you will not be able to buy a new internal combustion vehicle. The timescales in the automotive world are very short and all of it has had to change. Companies are scurrying round to try and go full EV.

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A CGI of the new gigafactory in Cambois, which is currently under construction.

“The combustion engine is about £2,500 cost to the manufacturer, but the battery pack is about £8,000 or £10,000. If you bring that battery pack from Asia or China, then you bring that vehicle and export the vehicle from the UK, there’s not enough added value.”

The issue could see car manufacturers leave the UK to countries that already produce batteries for the vehicles.

He added: “We haven’t really got into differentiation in performance. The current manufacturers offering is very much do you want to buy it or do you not want to buy it.

“That’s not what the European manufacturing business want. If you’re buying an expensive Range Rover or Mercedes or BMW, you do not want it to drive like a Fiat Panda.

“We want it to have a different performance and that means it has to have a different battery, and it means you don’t want the same batteries in the same vehicles. We’re focused on the high end performance sector, supporting the European manufacturers and those in the UK.”

Members also heard that, due to the amount of energy needed to produce car batteries and the fact that many of the countries that produce them still rely on fossil fuels for power, the average electric vehicle will have to drive around 40,000 miles using only electricity generated by renewable sources to offset the carbon that went into its production.

Mr Rolton explained that Britishvolt had a more efficient method to produce batteries, and that all the energy used by the factory would come from renewable sources – something “vital” if net zero targets are to be met.

The presentation was well-received by councillors – Coun John Beynon said it would be “fantastic for the local community of Northumberland,” while local member Alex Wallace, who represents Sleekburn, said: “That was a tremendous presentation.

“Over the years I’ve chaired meetings on behalf of RDN Power for a potential power station, I’ve chaired for the best part of three years plans for a biomass plant on Battleship Wharf. Neither of them came about.

“The message today to residents of Cambois is quite simple – Britishvolt is here, and that is a powerful powerful message. The job opportunities will come and there aren’t enough people in Cambois to fill all the jobs.”