The collapse of the UK electric vehicle champion RS News

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“I think the spending got out of control,” he says. “The business got carried away by acting like a big company, when in reality it was a startup making no money and losing money in wages. It really should have been more focused on building some kind of revenue or customer base before growing at the rate it did.”

A second former staff member, who also spoke on condition of anonymity, says: “It’s a shame the company has been so poorly managed. People were disappointed, time and time again. The company has great people and technologies and has not been allowed to truly shine due to terrible leadership.”

The company was still courting the investment, admittedly at a fraction of its previous valuation, just a week ago. One investor, who said she was in the process of making an offer for the company, tells WIRED: “It’s crazy, I’ve been offering a variety of possible solutions. [It] falls on deaf ears.”

The staff were told in a meeting at noon on January 17 that the company was under administration. The company’s public relations team said goodbye to the journalists with a brief email introducing the managers and admitting they didn’t know what was next for their careers.

Britishvolt’s press department no longer exists and the company could not be reached for comment.

It is unclear what will happen to the company and its assets next. Dan Hurd, a partner at EY-Parthenon, the firm hired to oversee the company’s insolvency and administration, said in a statement that the administrator’s priorities are to protect the interests of the company’s creditors, explore options for the sale of the business and assets and support affected employees.

The UK’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, which so fervently backed Britishvolt a year ago, declined to provide an attributable statement.

Bailey says the administration is, in some ways, the worst possible outcome, as EY-Parthenon will be legally required to sell the business to recover as much money as possible for its creditors. “That’s not the same as saying, ‘Well, who would be the best investor for that site? And for the UK battery-building industry?’” he says.

The collapse is a blow to the UK’s desire to become a world leader in the electric vehicle business, which was already a tall order.

Had Britishvolt been successful, the UK would still have accounted for just 0.6 percent of global lithium-ion cell capacity by 2031, according to data from Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a price reporting and research company. “After the British voltage faded, it’s down to 0.2 percent,” says Simon Moores, chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence. “These data serve as a stark reminder that the UK is not really part of this global battery arms race.”

Across Europe, governments have plans to support the construction of 35 gigafactories by 2035. Italtvolt, founded by former Britishvolt co-founder Carlstrom, is planning a gigafactory in northwestern Italy, construction of which is scheduled to begin this year.

From the outside, the struggles at Britishvolt are “a lesson in investing money and first building a product, a supply chain and an end-customer base,” says Moores. “It’s a dent in the UK’s hopes of being an EV powerhouse any time soon.”

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