For commercial customers, Britishvolt will make LFP batteries (for lithium iron phosphate). These use cheaper cathode materials and are lower-maintenance, but the cost/ease trade-off is reduced energy density, meaning you lose range or need bigger packs.
Tesla uses LFP for some standard-range Model 3s and it’s popular in China for both cars and commercials, but Britishvolt is targeting just the CV side.
“We think for commercial vehicles, it’s extremely relevant,” said Hoare. “It’s isolated from cost exposures from cobalt and nickel and it’s more stable on pricing.”
Britishvolt works with the UK’s government-funded Faraday Institute on modelling new battery chemistries, but it doesn’t own the rights to those so far.
“Some of the NMC formulations are sourced from cathode manufacturers,” Hoare said. “What we do is we put all the other ingredients together, about 15 parts.”
He describes it as making a cake: “You can make an awful one, but if you know what you’re doing, you can get onto the Great British Bake Off.”
Britishvolt also needs to source raw materials. One element is already locked in: cobalt. In August, it reached an agreement with mining firm Glencore for a long-term supply of the key cathode material. Much cobalt is mined in horrible conditions in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, but Britishvolt described Glencore’s as “ethically produced and low-carbon”.
The company reckons its batteries will be some of the most low-carbon available, thanks to a promise to only use 100% “green” electricity from local windfarms and an interconnector from Norway, where hydroelectric power generation is prevalent.
This has become a key factor as the European Union demands greater transparency into the production process of batteries sold within its region. EV batteries will require a “carbon footprint declaration” from July 2024; then it will get tougher with a “carbon intensity performance class label” from 1 January 2026; and then a maximum carbon footprint threshold will come in from July 2027.