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EV Battery Factory on ‘Life Support’

The project has hit a snag despite tens of millions in government aid.

State and local governments across the country are seemingly constantly lining up to attract the next major battery factory that will be needed for a forthcoming onslaught of electric vehicles.

But as an episode from across the pond shows, getting from flashy announcement to actual production is never as easy as it sounds.

Britishvolt, founded three years ago, wants to build a “Gigaplant” in the northeast of England that would supply 30 gigawatt-hours worth of batteries to the nation’s automotive sector. The battery factory, which would be the fourth-largest building in the country, has drawn the backing of the U.K. government, which sees it as vital to preserving domestic vehicle production — to the tune of tens of millions of pounds.

In recent weeks, however, the project has been put on what internal company documents called “life support.”

The Guardian reports that the company and its primary contractor have limited construction on the site until early next year in hopes of curbing spending while it raises more funds and builds up needed power infrastructure.

Britishvolt has received commitments of more than $2 billion to date from public and private sources, but those funds are reportedly contingent on the company meeting certain thresholds, and the total price tag is expected to be up to $4.6 billion.

The company downplayed the phrase “life support” in the documents, suggesting that it only applied to select parts of the project that were awaiting final design decisions. Officials, in fact, said they were ahead of schedule on the structure itself. The company’s U.K. project manager told the Guardian that the moves this summer would not threaten the project and would have only a “fairly small” financial effect.

The issues, the report noted, would not be unusual for a startup managing such an ambitious project, but it also highlighted some less-than-typical challenges also faced by Britishvolt. Its co-founder left the company in 2020 after it came to light that he was convicted of tax fraud in his native Sweden.

Britishvolt aims to start production at the Gigaplant in 2024.

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