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Battery firm chooses Welsh site for Britain's first gigafactory

A startup company with plans to build Britain’s first gigafactory to make batteries for electric cars has chosen a site in south Wales for the plant after discussions with the Welsh government.

Britishvolt, which in May launched an ambitious effort to create a £1.2bn factory, has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Welsh government ahead of signing a lease for a former Royal Air Force base at Bro Tathan business park, south Wales.

The battery manufacturer is aiming to list on the London Stock Exchange, around the first quarter of 2021. It is seeking to raise funds through equity, debt and possibly government grants, said Orral Nadjari, its chief executive.

The UK government and car companies have called for the establishment of a gigafactory to ensure the sector holds on to the 168,000 manufacturing jobs as the global automotive industry moves towards electric cars.

However, no company before Britishvolt has chosen the UK to build lithium-ion batteries on a large scale. Tesla, the US electric car pioneer led by the billionaire Elon Musk, chose a location near Berlin, Germany, for its first European battery factory, citing Brexit uncertainty as a factor counting against the UK, although this month it backed out of plans to build batteries at the plant.

Britishvolt hopes to start building its factory in the second quarter of 2021. The company also intends to build a 200MW solar power plant at the site to supply the factory and reduce its carbon footprint.

The Britishvolt plans would represent another boost for Wales’ automotive sector, as the sportscar maker Aston Martin started production of its DBX SUV at a factory also on the same site.

The company hopes to eventually provide as many as 3,500 jobs in the area, which was recently impacted by Ford’s decision to close its Bridgend engine plant by September this year.

In May Britishvolt signed a separate deal with the specialist battery maker AMTE Power, saying they would work together on plans for a plant to make batteries.

Britishvolt is aiming to build factories to manufacture batteries with 30 gigawatt hours (GWh) of capacity a year. The first leg of the plan will require Britishvolt to raise £1.2bn from investors, a significant sum for a company that has so far raised about £10m from a group of Scandinavian and Middle Eastern investors.

The company recently elevated Nadjari, one of the founders who was previously chief operating officer, to chief executive. The previous chief executive, Lars Carlström, has taken the role of executive chairman.

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