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Britishvolt plans 60 GWh Canadian gigafactory in Quebec


Gigafactory to be built a year or two after UK plant

Will mirror Northumberland site as much as possible

Canada chosen for raw materials, clean energy, good logistics

UK battery maker Britishvolt is planning on building a second gigafactory in Quebec, Canada with a capacity of 60 GWh, Britishvolt Canada President Philippe Couillard told S&P Global Platts Oct.8.

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The company is currently in the process of site selection and it carrying out due diligence on a preferred site in Quebec, Couillard said.

"The rationale for this is the abundance of affordable, clean hydroelectricity and access to logistics. This includes... a deep seaport connected to the St. Lawrence seaway and a direct connection to the North American rail network," he told Platts.

The company has no firm numbers on what the new plant will cost, although it is expected to be higher than the Northumberland plant due to a higher capacity.

While Britishvolt is targeting 60 GWh capacity at the Canadian plant, Couillard said continuous improvements in energy density may allow it to reach a higher number.

Britishvolt Canada is looking to move at pace with the Canadian gigafactory to keep up with booming demand.

"If you look at a demand graph, it's evident that supply cannot keep up and that this gap will keep growing in the future. The energy transition, to renewable power such as wind, hydro and solar is now in full force and the race to net zero is imperative for society," he said.

Global plug-in light duty EV sales are expected to rise to 6 million units in 2021 from 3.1 million units in 2020, and to 12.5 million units in 2026 and 21.7 million units by 2030, according to S&P Global Platts Analytics.

Couillard said he envisaged a one-to-two-year lag between the UK and the Canadian plants, with the latter having the advantage of using the expertise and lessons learned in the UK.

The battery maker started construction on its GBP2.6 billion ($3.5 billion) 30 GWh lithium-ion battery gigaplant in Blyth, Northumberland in early September, which will be built in three phases of 10 GWh each.

Production of battery cells is due to begin in the fourth quarter of 2023 and the plant should reach full capacity by the end of 2027 to manufacture enough cells for around 300,000 electric vehicles per year.

"We will mirror our site in Northumberland as much as we can, to keep best practice and benefit from lessons learned. The phased approach allows us to keep up with advancements in technology, first with classic chemistries, then solid state," Couillard said.

"Phasing the project allows us to nimbly adapt the manufacturing process to the advances in technology. We are in a consortium in the UK, with Johnson Matthey, Oxford University and others, to develop the next generation of solid-state technology," he added.

Logical jurisdiction

Canada was an attractive and logical jurisdiction for a battery plant, as it has an abundance of raw materials essential for battery cell production, clean energy and great logistics," Couillard told Platts.

Besides these advantages, Canada also offers a highly-skilled workforce, government backing for projects related to energy transition, and easy access to the huge North American market.

Couillard pointed out that the neighboring province of Ontario, which was home to a concentration of auto manufacturers, would be a natural partner and a link to these large OEMs and allow for a "green corridor" that allowed the low carbon advantage to extend to the whole supply chain.

"This sits perfectly with our environmental, social, and corporate governance strategy and the aim for low carbon, shorter supply chains. Canada is a perfect fit for our Global Britain expansion plans," he said.

Britishvolt is aiming to power the new plant with renewable energy, and, as with its Northumberland site, Canada has access affordable, renewable energy.

"Battery cell production is massively energy intensive, and it is counter intuitive to produce battery cells using anything but renewable energy... Quebec is one of the major producers of hydroelectricity in the world, this being essential to obtain a best in class carbon footprint in our supply chain and final product," Couillard said.

In addition to powering its sites with renewable energy, Britishvolt has also made other moves to ensure the sustainability of its site and raw material supply.

In mid-September, Britishvolt signed an agreement with supply chain traceability and emissions tracking provider Circulor to help track the battery maker's entire CO2 footprint, including the building material supply chains of its Northumberland plant and its future plants.

It also joined the Fair Cobalt Alliance in October to help develop responsible, transparent and fair artisanal mining cobalt supply in the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Prior to this, it signed a strategic agreement with Glencore in August for the long-term sustainable supply of a minimum of 30% of its annual cobalt requirements, while in February, Britishvolt pledged to use UK-made steel to construct the plant when it signed the Steel Charter.