There has been some unexpected good news for the UK’s battery industry after an Australian billionaire told Sky News he will open a state-of-the-art battery factory in Oxfordshire later this year, creating up to 300 new jobs .
Andrew Forrest, founder of Australian iron ore giant Fortescue, said he was expanding operations at WAE Technologies, the technical offshoot of the famed Williams Formula 1 team he bought last year.
The new factory in Kidlington will work on batteries and fuel cells for heavy goods vehicles in the coming decades.
Only 24 hours after posting The collapse of the British Voltthe best-known independent company wants to build a so-called gigafactory to mass-produce batteries for electric cars made in the UK.
While the Williams plant has a different focus — producing high-density batteries for larger trucks, such as those used by mining companies — its output will be significantly lower than promised british voltthe news will nonetheless be reassuring to those who fear the UK’s aspirations to develop an electric car industry are doomed.
Speak on the fringes of the World Economic Forum DavosMr Forrest said: “We invested heavily in British technology, British expertise and British work ethic in the last year. But then we said: ‘Listen, it’s great that you have the most advanced and innovative prototype battery in the world. Okay…but we have to get into manufacturing’.
“So last year, we started building a big factory in Kidlington. We’re going to open in April. It will [create] Hundreds of new UK jobs.
“And that’s just the beginning. I want to expand it from there, I want to take the technology to Australia, North America. I want to really stop the UK brain drain and bring the brightest British engineers … home.
“These batteries are going to be everywhere: motorcycles, cars, trucks, even our big mining trucks in Australia, even trains.”
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The Kidlington facility will produce up to 400 MW/h of battery modules and fully assembled integrated power systems per year – so it cannot be considered a “gigafactory” (producing more than 1 GWh of batteries per year) .
Even so, these cells are targeting a different market, higher density, higher performance cells.
Williams Advanced Engineering hopes to establish more such manufacturing centers around the world, following the blueprint of the Oxfordshire factory. They also plan to build a new manufacturing and prototype testing facility in the UK, which could create even more new jobs.