It was disclosed only a few months ago that the U.K’s future flagship  electric car battery manufacturer ‘British Volt’ was to close – even before opening due to lack of finance to complete the project. This is a business which had been widely touted for a few years as a much needed U.K industry ‘success story’ backed partly by the U.K government technology body ‘Innovate U.K’ assisted with tax payers money and was a much overdue facility required to support the wider U.K motor industry as it transitions rapidly towards electric vehicle manufacture as required by government legislation in its limitation of petrol and diesel car production by 2030.

I believe the finance required to complete the British Volt factory was in the order of £25M and that the costs to date were around £200M.

It therefore seemed ironic recently when it was announced that the Indian owned Tata company are to build a £4 Billion battery facility in Somerset (although obviously welcome news) supported by an ‘undisclosed’ tax payer subsidy which is speculated to be up to £500M – which raised a few questions in my mind:

  1. Why is the U.K yet again failing to capitalize in supporting our own technology and business opportunities given the relatively low cost of completion?
  2. Why so soon after the publicised demise of the previously ‘heralded’ British Volt was it agreed to support Tata with its factory?
  3. I realise that discussions with Tata would have been ongoing probably for a couple of years before a decision was made – however, was the fate and timing of British Volt failure a direct requirement of the Tata deal – or a consequence due to tax payer funding issues?
  4. It could be reasonably argued that having two factories would be both good for the industry and for competition in the industry?
  5. This raises the murky world of understanding who will be making batteries for who and whether any of them will actually be independent?
  6. There is also the wider issue of whether these batteries and car manufacturers will adopt a ‘charge only’ system whereby the battery is charged in the car – or a more sensible ‘standardized replacement’ option whereby batteries are replaced at ‘petrol station’ equivalent centers and then recharged in bulk – on or off site?


As an engineer with interest including energy and transport, I have long been frustrated with the slow evolution of vehicles away from conventional combustion engines to the much superior electric options. This could have been seeded many decades ago when the electricity grids were introduced – however, convention and vested interests as usual have prevailed thereby delaying the development of both electric car and battery technologies. An acquaintance of mine pioneered what is now considered to be the new generation of vehicle electric motors back in the early 1970’s which were demonstrated at the time on the BBC televisions ‘Tomorrows World’ programme.

Alluminium Air Batteries/cells which are also superior in all regards to the currently preferred lithium batteries have been utilized in the U.K since the 1960’s in a basic format with further developments having been pioneered in the U.K for 20 + years with little support – which underlines the lack of vision and failure of the U.K to ascertain the potential of future core technologies particularly relating to the imminent ‘green revolution’. Such technologies have the opportunity to deliver substantial economic and environmental benefits and are on the cusp of finally materializing – but currently not in the U.K.

The ultimate reason why Tata is able to commit to an investment of £4 billion is because unlike the U.K industrial sector have consistently invested in creating a successful business platform whilst the U.K has systematically over the last 50 years sold most of our engineering businesses to either liquidate a quick profit or limit the requirement for investment. The results of these short-term policies are increasingly damaging and unfortunately the only solution will be to quickly reverse this failed approach.

The U.S has recently recognized the potential of supporting the ‘green transition’ and has embarked upon their ‘inflation reduction bill’ which provides government grants to businesses in meeting this challenge. Whilst quantitative easing was adopted as a strategy to support banking failure propagated by a property ‘ponzi scheme’ by an industry that hung its hat on ‘market forces’ – it appears that investment in ‘real’ sustainable green technologies to help everyone and the environment will not be given a similar priority and so I am afraid that batteries, chickens and the economy are unfortunately all coming home to roost!

Phil Selwyn – CEO Water Powered Technologies