An Australian billionaire has revealed plans to build an advanced battery plant in the UK, which will create 300 new jobs.
Sky News reports Andrew Forrest, the founder of Australia’s iron ore giant Fortescue, has revealed the plans to expand operations WAE technologies in Oxfordshire, which is a technical offshoot of the famous Williams Formula 1 team that he purchased last year.
The plant in the town of Kidlington will produce batteries and fuel cells that could be used in heavy-duty vehicles in the coming decades.
The announcement comes just 24 hours after the collapse of Britishvolt, the most prominent independent firm hoping to build a so-called gigafactory, mass-producing batteries for UK-made electric vehicles.
The Williams plant’s focus will be on high-density batteries for large trucks, like those used by mining companies, and its output will be significantly lower than the promised levels of Britishvolt.
Speaking on the fringes of the World Economic Forum at Davos, Mr. Forrest said: “We invested heavily in British technology, British knowhow and British work ethic last year. But then we’ve said: ‘Listen, it’s great you’ve got the most advanced, innovative prototype batteries in the world… but we’ve got to get into manufacturing’.
“So last year, we started building a large factory in Kidlington. We’ll open it in April. It will [create] hundreds and hundreds of new British jobs.
“And that’s only the start. I want to expand it from there and I want to take that technology to Australia, to North America. I want to really stop the British brain drain and bring the smartest British engineers… home.
“These are batteries which are going to be everywhere: in motorbikes, cars, trucks, even our huge mining trucks in Australia, even trains.”
The plant at Kidlington will produce up to 400MW/h per year of battery modules and fully assembled integrated power systems – so it cannot be considered a “gigafactory” (which produces more than a gigawatt-hour of cells each year).
Nonetheless, these batteries are aimed at a different market, one that is looking for higher density, higher performance batteries.
Following the blueprints of the Oxfordshire facility, Williams Advanced Engineering hopes to build more of these manufacturing hubs around the world.
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They also intend to construct a new manufacturing and prototype testing facility in the United Kingdom, which could result in the creation of additional jobs.
Source: Sky News