By Harry Mottram: with the news that Tata could build a new electric car battery factory at the former Royal Ordnance Factory (ROF) site at Puriton in Somerset and the sale of electric cars is on the up (still a modest percentage compared to traditional petrol powered vehicles) you’d think that the Government’s planned banning of new diesel and petrol models in 2030 is on schedule. Think again. Locals have seen interest in the ROF site near Bridgwater wax and wane over the years and although Tata have made a statement of intent to build the £4 billion pound factory (helped by £500 million pounds of tax-payers’ cash) many a slip can take place before a shovel is pressed into the Somerset soil.

British Volt is testament to that after the Blythe based factory went bust earlier this year without a single brick being laid on the Northumberland site. Australian outfit Recharge Industries, a subsidiary of Scale Facilitation, bought British Volt but has itself run into trouble. Police have raided its offices in Australia over financial inconsistencies which hasn’t breathed confidence into the project that was supposed to create thousands of jobs in the North. The fields of Blythe where all this work heralded by the Government is supposed to take place remains a haven for wildlife.

The ongoing political wranglings over ULEZ after the Tories held Uxbridge in a byelection suggest that the 2030 deadline for carbon powered cars may yet be put back despite Gove’s assurances. Politicians like to back winners which is why the Labour Party is having an existential crisis over the subject while the Conservatives realise there are still votes in the internal combustion engine. The war in Ukraine has seen a sea change in the way Westminster views North Sea Oil as economic reality hits home. Oil is once again seen as good – despite the benefits of renewable energy sources.

But like all emerging industries there are dangers as the new kids on the block battle it out to see what makes a profit and what works. In Devon electric car rental firm Exeter’s EV Co-Cars has fallen into administration in July giving suppliers the jitters as firms like these were supposed to be the future. The British consumer is not gullible. They have seen the bad publicity surrounding the fires associated with battery powered vehicles including the one on the cargo ship off the Netherlands this month caused by over heated batteries. There is the small matter of the cost of replacing an EV battery of around £12k after only 100,000 miles and the fact it’s hard to plan a journey if there aren’t enough recharge points.

Ian Carrotte of ICSM said suppliers to the new manufacturers of electric car batteries should not be seduced by hype generated by the futuristic industry. He pointed to the fact that many suppliers to British Volt had their fingers burnt when the firm collapsed owing millions and they should be wary of any publicity surrounding similar projects – especially where not a single battery has been sold and the ROF site in Somerset continues to attract wildlife rather than GB pounds.

He said: “Stick to your normal credit terms – and don’t allow late payment when dealing with the new EV sector – and don’t take notice of the line ‘we’re the future so get on board now’ if they don’t pay their invoices on time – or at all.”


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