Lithium-ion newcomer Britishvolt is ramping up its plan to build a large scale electric car battery factory in the UK, adding industry heavyweight Isobel Sheldon to its team in the role of Chief Strategy Officer and head of its advisory board.
The announcement of Sheldon’s new role with Britishvolt comes only weeks after the UK battery startup signed a potentially landmark agreement with energy newcomer AMTE Power worth £4 billion to look at building a battery plant with 35GWh capacity in Wales.
The addition of Sheldon, who has two decade’s worth of experience in the battery industry, to the Britishvolt team is a serious indication of the confidence in the company’s plan to build a green economy for the UK.
Sheldon – who was instrumental in the integration of lithium-ion battery technology into the first hybrid production Toyota Prius in 2003, and has been working as a business development manager at the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre – said she would bring her experience and passion to the new role.
“As one of the first pioneers to integrate lithium-ion batteries in road vehicles, including the first commercially available Plug-in Hybrid in the world based on the Toyota Prius hybrid in 2003, I have developed a wealth of knowledge on a wide range of disciplines – from cell technology, chemistries and system integration to how the global industry and supply chain works, as well as the processes involved in manufacturing the cells,” Sheldon said in a statement.
“I take great pride in having grown over time with this nascent industry, which is now of global strategic significance as the world transitions to electrification and green technologies, having learnt some hard lessons through trial and error to spot the industry’s pitfalls and opportunities.”
Aimed at making the UK a serious player in the rapidly growing EV battery market, it will be one of the biggest single industrial investments in British history, says the company.
A recent report from the UK government-backed Faraday Institution said local investment in a UK-based battery industry could create as many as 100,000 jobs.
That number was echoed in another report released on Thursday by the UK Local Government Association that says 700,000 green jobs could be created within the decade, with 14% of those involved in the manufacture of zero and low emissions vehicles.
Both reports underline the findings in a similar report released last Monday by EY and outlined by the WWF that says a green stimulus plan could create 100,000 jobs in Australia if investments are made in renewable energy such as wind and solar, as well as in batteries and buses.
“Previously working as one of the executive team behind the UKBIC’s national asset effort, I am delighted to work with Britishvolt to develop a robust, risk-based plan that will help revitalise and strengthen the UK’s manufacturing sector, and honour its heritage and excellence in lithium-ion batteries,” said Sheldon.
“These first few months will be of huge importance, as Britishvolt lays the foundation from which the whole enterprise will be built. As we go forward with the planning phase, our strategy will be to focus on which technology choices we will carry forward, the location of the facility, and identify the key personnel that will be required to build a roadmap for the future.”
Britishvolt is currently eyeing a location in the south of Wales for the factory, which when producing EV batteries at its planned 35GWh capacity will be on par with that of Scandinavian Northvolt, which plants to make 32GWh of EV batteries a year at its Swedish battery factory in Skellefteå by 2024, and 24GWh from its German factory in Salzgitter.
Britishvolt founder and CEO Lars Carlstrom said in a statement that adding Sheldon to the UK startup’s team in a strategic role was an obvious choice.
“Isobel was the perfect fit for this hugely significant role, as she has a rare skillset and the background to understand both the technical and chemical aspects of batteries – whilst being able to implement this into a business paradigm to create value for our shareholder,” said Carlstrom in a statement.
Britishvolt’s decision to put the UK on the map of electric vehicle battery manufacture is also significant given the fact it was there that John Goodenough conducted crucial research while at top UK university Oxford, leading to the development of commercially-produced and rechargeable lithium-ion batteries.
“As the birthplace of lithium-ion, the UK was a natural choice for us to build a gigafactory, as it remains internationally renowned for its academic excellence in lithium-ion research and development,” says Carlstrom.
“Leveraging Isobel’s global network, from over twenty years of working in the industry, will help establish Britishvolt and the UK as a world-class competitive battery manufacturing hub for sustainable energy storage, and vehicle electrification moving forward,” he says.
Bridie Schmidt is lead reporter for The Driven, sister site of Renew Economy. She specialises in writing about new technology and has been writing about electric vehicles for two years. She has a keen interest in the role that zero emissions transport has to play in sustainability and is co-organiser of the Northern Rivers Electric Vehicle Forum.