The boss of Leicestershire fuel cell developer Intelligent Energy says the tech business hopes to start work on a £100 million East Midlands gigafactory as early as next year.
Chief executive David Woolhouse said the manufacturing facility at a site yet to be finalised could employ 1,000 people, and support another 2,000 in the supply chain.
The Loughborough University spin-out business, based on the university science and enterprise park, has spent years researching and developing low carbon hydrogen fuels cells for use in everything from bikes, cars and planes to people’s homes.
Gigafactories are the new generation of manufacturing plants making batteries for electric vehicles on a large scale.
Two months ago Intelligent Energy won the innovation in technology category at the 2022 LeicestershireLive Innovation Awards.
According to the Leicester and Leicestershire Enterprise Partnership Intelligent Energy plans to make a decision on a site for the factory by the end of June and hopes to secure planning consent by the end of 2022, and begin construction in early 2023.
The LLEP said potential East Midlands locations for the gigafactory include Ratcliffe-on-Soar Power Station, Loughborough University’s Science and Enterprise Park and a third site that Mr Woolhouse would not name.
However Mr Woodhouse said the plans would need strong Government support because of the high cost of developing a UK site compared to, say, somewhere in Germany.
He said: “We’re going to build a gigafactory somewhere. It’s a matter of where and when. Our factory will cost around £100 million. That’s a lot to do without government support.
“It would be nice to be in the UK, but the difference in land prices is huge between the UK and EU. What would cost us £20 million here would be £2 million in Germany.
“We would also probably get more government support there, and that part of the world understands the hydrogen economy more than people do here.
“UK plc should make sure we stay here. If we leave, this know-how would be lost to this country.”
“The government needs to prioritise starting a fuel cell industry, which would not employ not thousands, but tens of thousands of people.”