Home » Wates breaks ground on its biggest contract to date

Wates breaks ground on its biggest contract to date

by Sion Geschwindt
The gigafactory is slated to deliver a six-fold increase in electric vehicle battery production in the UK.

Wates Group has began construction on a new gigafactory in Sunderland for Japanese electric vehicle battery Envision AESC.

The project, the largest by single value in Wates’ 125-year history, is AESC’s second Sunderland battery plant.

The footprint of the new building will be the equivalent of 23 football pitches and use 14000 km of mains cables.

It will have capacity of 12 GWh and is expected to employ more than a 1,000 people when operational in 2025.

The gigafactory is slated to deliver a six-fold increase in electric vehicle battery production in the UK.

It will be powered by 100% net zero carbon energy, aligning with the company’s global commitment to sustainability, Wates said in a press release.

The facility looks to produce enough of AESC’s latest generation batteries to power 100,000 electric vehicles annually.

It forms part of a wider £1bn partnership with Nissan and Sunderland City Council to create EV36Zero, an electric vehicle hub supporting next generation EV production and accelerating the transition to net zero carbon mobility.

A traditional Japanese first pillar ceremony marked the first phase of work on Friday 9th December, with AESC CEO Shoichi Matsumoto tightening the bolt on the building’s ‘first pillar’ – a traditional Japanese custom on construction projects.

Wates construction regional operations director Neil Matthias (left) with Envision AESC chief executive Shoichi Matsumoto (centre) and Sir James Wates (right) (credit: Wates)

The ceremony also marked a decade of EV battery production on Wearside with the first electric vehicle battery built back in 2012, to support production of the first-generation Nissan LEAF.

The latest integrated Artificial Intelligence of Things (AIoT) smart technology will be deployed to monitor and optimise energy consumption, manufacturing and maintenance at the gigafactory, say the developers.

Wates Group, alongside its specialist engineering services arm, SES Engineering Services, is leading the design and delivery of the build, working alongside Turner & Townsend who will act as the project manager and cost manager.

Envision AESC CEO, Shoichi Matsumoto, said: “The first pillar event marks the latest phase of Envision AESC’s investment in the UK and is a sign of our ongoing commitment to Sunderland. Our ambitious growth plans are built on a focus on quality, which is why we have over 800,000 electric vehicle batteries on the road globally with zero critical incidents.”

Sir James Wates CBE, Chairman of Wates Group, said: “Envision AESC is the largest single project by value in our 125-year history. We are integrating years of expertise from across our business and supply partners to deliver this immensely complex scheme.

“This gigafactory represents the future of green, automotive manufacturing – not only in the North East, but nationally – and like all our projects, we’re committed to building it sustainably and for the long-term benefit of the region. It was an honour to celebrate this first phase with AESC and we look forward to our next milestone being completed.”

Leader of Sunderland City Council, Councillor Graeme Miller, added: “IAMP provides us with a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform our economy, creating sustainable new jobs that will support people from in and around the city for many years to come.

“And as work begins on Envision AESC’s landmark new Gigafactory, part of the wider £1bn EV Hub with Nissan EV36Zero, we are accelerating our journey towards a greener, more sustainable future in the North East both in advanced manufacturing and in transport. This is a milestone moment for the city.”

Main image: A 3D render of the completed Ensvision gigafactory

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