Friday, May 24, 2024
Cars

End of an EV dream after U.S. private equity giant buys site of ‘gigafactory’




The abandoned site of a once-planned £3.8billion gigafactory has been sold – delivering a blow to the UK’s electric car industry.

US private equity giant Blackstone has agreed to buy the 235-acre location in Northumberland, whch it plans to turn it into one of Europe’s largest data centres.

It was described as a ‘lost opportunity for UK battery making’ by Professor David Bailey, a car industry expert at Birmingham University’s business school.

The deal extinguishes any hope that the site would become a key part of the transition of car making from petrol and diesel to electric.

Gigafactories make electric car batteries and Britain needs more of them if it is to compete in an era when the assembly lines that today churn out internal combustion engines become obsolete.

Council officials say the plans for a data centre at the Northumberland site could create more than 1,600 jobs.

Car industry experts had seen the location – formerly home to Blyth Power Station – as ideal for a gigafactory. 

Plans were under way to build one until Britishvolt, the company behind the project, collapsed last year. 

Australian firm Recharge Industries later took control of the business but it was faced with a winding up petition last month.

Official receivers from business recovery specialist Begbies Traynor yesterday announced the sale of the site to Blackstone for an undisclosed sum.

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Bob Maxwell, of Begbies Traynor, said: ‘From a difficult situation, the future sale will ensure a very bright future for the site.’

But Bailey said: ‘The site is ideal for building a gigafactory on the site of the old Blyth Power Station.

‘This has plenty of infrastructure for an energy hungry battery plant and a rail link to the port terminal – ideal for importing components and exporting batteries. 

Losing it to other uses really is a lost opportunity for UK battery making as we will need more gigafactories to support UK auto production.’

Industry figures suggest Britain will need gigafactory capacity of 60-90GWh by 2030 to meet a target of producing a million electric vehicles a year.

Capacity now amounts to 2GWh – from the Envision plant in Sunderland.

Britishvolt’s gigafactory could have added 38GWh to that total. However, plans for Envision’s expansion to 12GWh, and a new 40GWh site to be built by Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata, should still take UK capacity to 52GWh by 2026.

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