The dawn of the new electric car era appears to be heralding something of a recovery in the British auto industry. Dyson is planning a bold, big money play on the industry and is currently developing its own range of electric-only vehicles. Aston Martin is launching an IPO and has an ‘electric supercar’, the RapidE, in the works.
And today news has come out that Williams Grand Prix Holding, best known for the F1 Williams racing team is planning a joint venture new plant that will manufacture high-end batteries for the latest technology in the world of electric cars.
The UK government’s industrial strategy has, perhaps surprisingly considering the decline in the country’s auto manufacturing industry over the past few decades, zeroed in on electric cars as a ‘key pillar of future growth’.
However, while component manufacturing might be initially strike as more suited to the economic model and lower overheads of other parts of the world, countries such as the UK can still be competitive at the high-end of the market.
The joint venture between Williams and motor components group Unipart, called Hyperbat, is exactly that and will make batteries, with production estimated at around 10,000 units a year, for Aston Martin initially. However, other luxury British brands such as Jaguar Land Rover, Rolls-Royce and Bentley are also believed to be potential, and even likely, customers for the top-of-the-range battery technology. It is thought those that will power the new electric Aston Martin Rapide will be up to twice as powerful as those used by Elon Musk’s Tesla.
In a symbolic return to the UK’s history as a carmaker, the new plant will be based in Coventry at the same site once used by Riley. The marque has not existed in almost half a century but was one of the country’s first auto manufacturers. Unipart already has a diesel and petrol exhaust systems facility there. The venture will initially employ 100 highly skilled workers and become Britain’s only second battery plant, joining Nissan’s Sunderland facility which builds power packs for its electric Leaf model.
Unipart’s contribution to the joint venture is its manufacturing and supply chain management experience, while Williams brings the design engineering and latest chemistry technology. The latter set up Williams Advanced Engineering in 2010 with a view to introducing commercially adapted Formula One technologies into mainstream vehicles and the joint venture is through that subsidiary. It has already shown the promise by developing the power systems for the Jaguar CX75 prototype that featured in the recent James Bond file Spectre.
Greg Clark, the UK’s business, energy and industrial strategy secretary, commented:
“Hybrid and electric vehicles will play a key part in Britain’s cleaner and greener future. Through the industrial strategy, the government is building on our world-leading strengths, making the UK the go-to place for these technologies.”