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Australia-based startup buys collapsed battery maker Britishvolt

Only weeks after announcing its plan to build a lithium-ion battery gigafactory in Geelong, Australia-based startup Recharge Industries has bought collapsed battery maker Britishvolt – doubling its manufacturing ambitions. The takeover resuscitates Britishvolt’s gigafactory play in northern England, and means the little known startup now holds two significant battery making projects.

Australia-based startup Recharge Industries, owned by US fund Scale Facilitation, has acquired Britishvolt’s assets and business, after the company went into administration in January.

Before running out of capital earlier this year, Britishvolt had planned to build a $6.6 billion (GBP 3.8 billion, USD 4.71 billion) lithium-ion battery cell manufacturing plant in Cambois, northern England. At full capacity, Britishvolt’s proposed 30 GWh factory envisioned making enough cells for more than 300,000 lithium-ion batteries every year.

Recharge Industries has now acquired Britishvolt after finalising a deal with its administrators, who had selected Recharge as their preferred bidder from a field of contenders. The price of the deal has not been made public.

In January, Recharge Industries made a splash by announcing its plan to construct a lithium-ion gigafactory in Geelong, Victoria. It is aiming to begin construction on that project by the end of the year, targeting 2 GWh of production annually in 2024 before also scaling up to 30 GWh of storage capacity per year.

Recharge was founded by Australian David Collard, a former PwC partner now based in New York. The startup is part of the portfolio of another Collard venture, a US fund called Scale Facilitation. 

Far from detracting from the Geelong plans, Collard says the acquisition of Britishvolt will supercharge its Australian vision. “This is the definition of synergy. We now have so many economies of scale, and we have a global manufacturing footprint that aligns,” Collard told The Australian Financial Review.

Crucial to Recharge Industries’ pitch is that it will use battery technology from US company C4V, removing the expense of developing its own process. “Our technology – including an exclusive license for the intellectual property and battery technology – has been developed and validated over the last decade through C4V in the US and will be the backbone of both gigafactories in Geelong and Cambois,” Collard said.

A rendering of Recharge Industries’ proposed battery manufacturing plant at Geelong.Image: Accenture

Recharge Industries has repeatedly publicised that its battery cells won’t use materials from China or Russia. Instead, the startup’s plans rest on partnerships between the three countries in the Aukus trilateral security pact: Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States. Indeed, Collard has described Recharge’s projects as “a flagship for friendshoring.”

Given this, it appears likely Recharge will opt to use Australian materials for its Britishvolt play. As part of the deal, Recharge will also reportedly take over the 27 battery experts still on Britishvolt’s payroll.

Collard has said he hopes Australian superannuation funds will get behind Recharge, which has now doubled its ambitions by taking on Britishvolt. “This provides a great opportunity for Australian superannuation funds to co-invest with the UK fund manager, or invest through their existing fund structure… helping an Australian company scale,” he told AFR.

Deputy Prime Minister of Australia and Minister for Defence Richard Marles speaking at Recharge Industries’ battery conference held in Geelong, Jan. 16, 2023.Image: Recharge Industries/LinkedIn

It appears the Geelong gigafactory will be first cab off the rank, with Collard noting construction in the UK would take another year.

“Backed by our global supply chain, strategic delivery partners and a number of significant customer agreements in place, we’re confident of making the [Britishvolt] Cambois gigafactory a success and growing it into an advanced green energy project,” Collard said.

Shoring new energy supply chains

Today, China accounts for a vast majority of lithium-ion battery manufacturing. Australia, on the other hand, is the globe’s leading lithium supplier, and tops that list for a range of other commodities vital for making batteries and other renewable equipment.

On top of lithium, Australia is the world’s top producer of titanium and the second largest producer of zircon and rare earth elements. Australia also has the world’s largest reserves of rutile (titanium), zircon (zirconium) and tantalum. Our reserves of critical minerals like antimony, cobalt, lithium, manganese ore, niobium, tungsten and vanadium, rank in the top five globally.Image: Future Battery Industries Cooperative Research Centre

The push to “friendshore” new energy supply chains has taken on a new sense of urgency with the shifting geopolitics of 2022, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The move has also been propelled by US President Biden’s Inflation Reduction Act, which includes massive funding support to build clean energy manufacturing capability in the US and, seemingly, partner countries like Australia.

“Working with our closest allies, America (sic) and Australia, and using world-leading and proven technology, now we can take Britishvolt forward with real purpose,” said Edward Dawes, Scale Facilitation’s UK-based advisor.

source: pv-magazine-australia