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British car battery champion seeks to woo Elon Musk’s Tesla

The Telegraph logo The Telegraph 23/06/2022 Howard Mustoe
Britishvolt Tesla Elon Musk - Britishvolt/PA Wire © Britishvolt/PA Wire Britishvolt Tesla Elon Musk - Britishvolt/PA Wire

A British electric car battery maker is targeting Tesla as a client by developing power cells designed to appeal to Elon Musk.

Britishvolt, which is building a gigafactory in Blyth after raising £1.7bn, is working on lighter, cheaper batteries similar to the prototype 4680 cells that Mr Musk's company ordered earlier this year from Panasonic.

A source said that if Britishvolt could provide performance batteries to Tesla it would be a “win for the UK” and its battery research.

Britishvolt is intending to focus on high-performance vehicles such as those built by Lotus and Aston Martin, both signed up as future customers.

Orral Nadjari, chief executive, said: “What we want to do is we want to help electrify the UK.

“First, we are focusing on this kind of niche, high performance end.”

The business is developing so-called large-format cells to tempt Tesla as a customer, according to sources.

The 4,680 cells Mr Musk bought in February are bigger and more energy dense than existing sizes. When combined into a battery pack, it is lighter and cheaper as a result.

Britishvolt hopes to offer comparable models developed at its recently bought business in Germany.

The business has also agreed to send some test cells to a blue chip car maker in Europe and it has negotiated early stage supplier relationships with three European car companies, Mr Nadjari said. The company's memoranda of understanding with Lotus and Aston are also regarded as key early wins.

While some industry figures have expressed scepticism about the company’s ability to compete with established battery makers such as Japan’s Panasonic, Korea’s LG Chem and China’s CATL, and suggested that Britishvolt needs to sign some concrete orders soon, Mr Nadjari is confident.

He pointed to the number of gigafactories in China - 117, with 226 due to be operational by the end of the decade, according to analysts at Benchmark Minerals - compared with Europe’s six, which will only reach 30 in the same timeframe.

Mr Nadjari said: “The entire supply-demand imbalance in Europe actually directly affects the UK and Britishvolt.

“It doesn't matter how many you build right now, you will have a shortage of supply.”

Video: Tesla CEO Elon Musk clarifies layoff plans at electric carmaker (CNBC)


In order to comply with EU rules of origin, which dictate that a certain proportion of a product’s value must come from a country for it to be deemed as originating there, most cars made in Europe will also need their batteries to be produced there.  

Europe’s car industry will need vastly more capacity, Mr Nadjuri said, especially if it is serious about being green, since shipping half-tonne batteries from China is anything but.

While Nissan is having its own factories built to feed its huge plant in Sunderland and Jaguar Land Rover is said to be considering other sites for its own supply, Mr Nadjari said that the demand for high-end, energy-dense batteries will satisfy the company’s order book.

He said: “One size doesn't fit all anymore as part of moving towards electrification and you have to adapt the chemistry of the batteries for the specific application requirements. And that's where we’re differentiating ourselves."

Mr Nadjari said the company has no immediate need for more funds after its £1.7bn deal with warehouse company Tritax and investment firm Abrdn, which was announced in January. He said he plans to list the company in London when the time is right.

Electric car charging to face 10-minute delays amid energy rationing

By Rachel Millard

Electric car charging will face 10-minute delays under new rules to protect the grid by rationing electricity during surges in demand. 

From the end of this month, chargers installed at homes and workplaces must be set up to help reduce the strain on the grid from the shift to greener energy - and therefore the cost to the public of upgrades to the grid.  

This includes a “random delay” function which means charging can be delayed by ten minutes if needed, to avoid overwhelming the grid. It would help avoid sudden surges in demand, such as due to a plunge in prices on time-of-use-tariffs.

Charge-points must also be capable of operating with a delay of up to 30 minutes in case the rules change, according to regulations coming into force on June 30. 

Chargers will need to be “smart” so they can send and receive data about electricity demand and supply, so that balancing features can work.

Electric cars outnumber charge points © Provided by The Telegraph Electric cars outnumber charge points

The number of electric vehicles on UK roads is set to soar in coming years ahead of the 2030 ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars. 

Meanwhile, the growing proportion of wind and solar power generation makes the electricity system harder to manage as supplies are intermittent.

Officials hope car charging can be managed in a way that helps balance the electricity system, with cars charging overnight when electricity is cheaper or even selling electricity back to the grid when prices are high. 

To encourage this, the new rules also mean chargers will be sold either with agreements allowing their charging to be shifted to different times of the day, or with default off-peak charging hours that can be overridden by the owner. 

Drivers will also be able to override the delay settings. Jordan Brompton, co-founder of myenergi, which sells smart home electric vehicle chargers, said “most drivers won’t even notice” the changes to the rules. 

She added: “Forward-thinking EV drivers should welcome smart charging. It’s helping future-proof our power network and shows the UK is leading the way in preparing for the widespread adoption of clean and green driving.”

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