Britishvolt: A Green Business is NOT a Charity
And so the Britishvolt EV battery startup has died a big messy public death, as I predicted. Not because of any particular skill on my part, just that it was the third or fourth such project I’ve seen over the years. They arrive like a firework in a blaze of light and sound then fade away leaving nothing but an acrid smell in the air.
Let’s be clear what happened to Britishvolt. While they had raised a lot of dosh from investors, they had nothing to sell and nobody to sell it to. Not one car company had signed up to buy the batteries produced from its proposed gigafactory a few miles north of where I sit. They had no intellectual property to, say, license to another manufacturer either. They had nothing. Nowt. Rien. Nada.
Worse than this, there are questions being asked at how the money they raised was spent. Leaving aside renting a luxury mansion or buying top of the range 4k computer monitors, the Guardian reports that £3.2 million in consultancy fees were paid to a company of which the Britishvolt Executive Chair is a Director. Hmm.
What really bothers me though, is the Guardian’s sister paper, the Observer, ignored all of this and blamed Britishvolt’s failure on the “free market thinking” of the Government for not rescuing or investing in the business. This is a simple case of trying to flex the facts into a predetermined political position. Why should the Government pour taxpayers’ money into a company which had nothing to give back?
That’s not to say the Government shouldn’t take some blame for adding to the hyperbolic hype and post-Brexit bluster around Britishvolt. Given the level of this boosterism, it’s a surprise that the cheque book wasn’t opened. Presumably some anonymous pen-pusher realised the emperor had no clothes and found a way to avoid signing over the huge dollop of taxpayer’s money they were after. And rightly so.
Every month I make small crowd-funding-style investments in green start-ups. They all have either a brand new idea or are trying to do an existing thing much better and/or cheaper than before. Most will fail and some will succeed, but they all feature ideas. That’s real entrepreneurialism, not toting artists’ impressions of a huge shed in a field around the great and the good.