Recharge Industries shifts focus to UK gigafactory

Brandon How

Geelong-based Recharge Industries is recommitting its staff to the development of its British factory, while planning approval for its proposed Australian development remains unsubmitted.

The firm currently employs 160 people across four countries, with many of the staff now expected to focus on accelerating the development of a proposed 30GWh gigafactory in Cambois, England.

This will draw the focus of some of the roughly 50 Australian-based staff, although a spokesperson told that most will remain focused on Australian operations.

Town planning applications for the proposed Avalon Airport-based battery factory have yet to be submitted. The site was secured through a memorandum of understanding with the Avalon Airport Authority in September 2022.

The proposed Avalon development site was toured by Defence minister Richard Marles, Industry minister Ed Husic, and member for Corangamite Libby Coker in May.

The firm’s spokesperson also confirmed a report that there have been delays in paying “some staff and vendors”, although they expect the issue to be resolved in the next pay and invoicing cycle. However, it claimed there were several inaccuracies in the article.

Graphic of Recharge Industries’ proposed Avalon Airport gigafactory.

Recharge industries acquired bankrupt British battery producer Britishvolt at the end of February this year, which gave it ownership of a facility that already had planning permission, designs, existing infrastructure, and offtake agreements secured.

US-based parent company Scale Facilitation established a joint venture with Tritax Asset Management this week to “fast-track the deployment of the Recharge Industries UK Gigafactory”, according to the firm.

Recharge Industries chief executive Rob Fitzpatrick urged Australian governments to throw their support behind the Avalon factory to ensure Australian battery manufacturing is globally competitive.

“Our ability to develop and build the Avalon Gigafactory, along with a value-added supply chain, is contingent on funding support from federal and state governments, along with capital markets,” he said.

“Battery cell manufacturing projects such as ours are in a global competition for capital. If Australia is serious about moving away from a dig-and-ship mentality, then now is the time to double down on funding and policy support for major cell manufacturing like the one proposed by Recharge Industries.”

Australian battery manufacturers told last year that the generous incentives available through the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) made it an attractive place to invest.

However, Industry and Science minister Ed Husic said in March he expects Australian firms to complement United States supply chains, and has held discussions with the US government to link the IRA with Australia’s National Reconstruction Fund.

Mr Fitzpatrick added that proceeding with the development of the company’s UK factory would help accelerate development at the Geelong factory by de-risking the construction process “enabling us to adopt a ‘design once, build many’ approach”.

Development plans for the Avalon gigafactory were announced in January, with the factory initially expected to produce an annual output of 2GWh in the second half of 2024 before being ramped up to 6GWh by 2026.

When the Avalon development plans were announced, it was also confirmed that it had secured the equipment for the 2GWh production line “with binding off-take contracts and secured funding”. Eventually, the full capacity of the site would be 30GWh, employing around 1,500 to 2,000 people.

Recharge also announced it had engaged Accenture to work on the detailed engineering phase to provide “advisory on the facility layout, including utility planning and set-up of the production lines; assistance in procuring and shipping the required equipment; conduction of final tests of all line equipment; ongoing process and product engineering support to improve battery production”.

The facility will adapt lithium-ion battery company C4V’s intellectual property for battery manufacturing and global supply chain to fit the requirements of the Geelong gigafactory.

Last year, Deakin University announced that Recharge Industries would receive $10 million of its University Trailblazer grant to support R&D activities at subsidiary Recharge Dynamics last year, but no agreement is understood to have been formalised.

Scale Facilitation in March committed $10 million to establish a collaborative artificial intelligence and machine learning CoLab at Deakin University’s Applied Artificial Intelligence Institute.

It had previously committed $1 million to support AI research and translational activity in 2021.

Do you know more? Contact James Riley via Email.

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