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Britishvolt and the UK's EV journey

Britishvolt and the UK's EV journey

Syndy Liew

01/04/2022

Reading time: four minutes

Given the recent rise in petrol prices, those who invested in electric-powered cars might have escaped the steep petrol price many are suffering from.

On the topic of electric cars, one company that I’ve been keeping myself updated on is the start-up Britishvolt. Founded in 2019, Britishvolt aims to build one of the UK’s few large-scale battery factories. It’s main focus is the research and development of battery technologies, which form an important part of electric vehicles. 

To find out more about self-driving cars, read this LCN Blog: ‘The legal challenges of self-driving cars’.

Introduction

While internal combustion-engined cars get energy from burning petrol or diesel, an electric vehicle gets its power directly from a big pack of batteries. This is why battery technologies are crucial to developing the future of electrified vehicles and sustainable energy storage, playing into the wider picture of UK’s government's zero carbon emission ambitions. 

One significant part of this development is the location of one of the largest sites for green project; Port of Blyth, a former coal mining site in Northumbria. This is also where Britishvolt’s car battery plant would be located at. Due to the expertise of the port, a huge supply chain such as manufacturing for parts and welders, exists at the port to support the whole lifecycle of scaled green projects. 

This also reflects the wider market trends that have been at the forefront these years such as; a rise in demands for investment or projects backed by ESG criteria. Furthermore, this article reflects the government’s commitment to UK’s transition towards a net-zero economy. 

For a deeper insight into the ESG sector, read this Commercial Question: ‘ESG policies and the lawyer/client relationship’.

Government funding

Given the scale of Britishvolt’s battery project, the full project is expected to cost £3.8 billion so it needs Government funding and has been receiving support from the government to get this project off the ground. This is because in addition to green job opportunities, this project plays an important role in providing the UK automotive industry with a local source of batteries and it complements the UK’s plan to phase out the sale of new petrol and diesel vehicles by 2030. 

Plans to increase public EV charging points

Another crucial part of encouraging electric vehicles uptake includes improving the necessary infrastructure for convenience and accessibility. BP, an oil and gas company recently announced an additional £1 billion investment to boost the number of superfast charging points in its current network known as Pulse.

Similarly, the government has announced a number of investments to encourage wide-scale electric vehicle adoption. This includes the government’s electric vehicle infrastructure strategy that was released on 25 March 2022. For this strategy, the UK government outlined plans to increase the number of public EV chargers tenfold by 2030. 

Potential challenges

Nevertheless, it is important to note some of the challenges that might impact the EV industry. Firstly, demands for battery components and raw materials might be rising faster than supply. For instance, Britishvolt is already acting to secure a steady supply of nickel by working with Indonesia’s Bakrie family to supply nickel sulphate for battery production. Nevertheless, prices for raw materials are rising which would then be passed on to the customers.

According to the Financial Times, mid-March commodity costs had added 5 to 6% to the total price of a fully electric vehicle as of mid-March 2022.

Will the rising car prices deter customers from switching to electric vehicles and slow down the transition towards EVs? Only time will tell.

In the long term, it would be interesting to see how the government would replace the lost motoring tax revenues due to the uptake of electric cars. Currently, electric car users benefit from lower road-related taxes such as being exempt from paying fuel duty and vehicle excise duty.

According to the Financial Times, the OBR forecasts the higher share of electric car sales alone will reduce motoring tax revenues by £2.1 billion in five years' time. Ultimately, it’s important that a transition plan would not risk disincentivising the EVs adoption in the near future. 

Looking ahead

The next few years are definitely an exciting time to see how new solutions are being implemented in the field of energy and emerging technologies. I hope you enjoy this LCN Blog post and if you have not already, do check out Britishvolt – it has one of the coolest website landing pages!