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Amazon-backed, US EV maker Rivian is in talks to establish a factory in the West Country

According to Sky, the US-based EV start-up, Rivian is in talks with the UK government to establish a manufacturing base near Bristol. Best known for financial backing from Amazon and its R1T pickup, the plans could bring huge and much needed investment, and another centre of EV innovation to the UK.

Backed not only by Amazon, but also Ford, Rivian is a start-up EV maker with genuine financial clout and huge technological potential so Sky’s report that the brand is tapping up ministers to start manufacturing in the UK is big news. To put its financial capabilities into perspective, since 2019 Rivian has managed to raise £7.5bn in brand investment.

According to the report, Rivian has “been in secret negotiations with the British government for weeks about the construction of a plant near Bristol”. Key to getting the project off the negotiating table and into reality will be state support for the package – greasing the wheels financially and from a planning perspective, if you will.

You can see why greasing said wheels is such an attractive proposition for the government; the investment would be worth upwards of £1bn to an economy suffering from the Brexit mess and fallout of the pandemic.

Unfortunately, the UK isn’t the only country in the running. Sky reports that Rivian is also approaching Germany and the Netherlands as it seeks to expand its horizons beyond the US and into Europe. However, for better or worse the proposals in the UK have already found the ear of the Prime Minister who “is said to be taking a keen interest in their (the discussions’) progress”.

What we do know is that the scope of the proposals does not yet extend to Gigafactory-style battery production: getting SUVs off the production line is Rivian’s goal and batteries would presumably be brought in. That said, with a number of battery production projects either already getting off the ground in the UK, and others in the pipeline, Rivian’s presence would add further impetus for new companies to invest.

Our presumption is that initially, the factor would be geared to produce the RT1, a gargantuan electric pick-up with a range of up to 400 miles and power up to 745bhp.

The location that is currently being discussed is a plot near the 616 acre ‘smart campus’, called Gravity, near Bristol. Billed as a low-carbon centre for high-tech development, close to transport links, universities and with existing government support, you can see why Rivian would be drawn to it. Whilst not quite Silicon Valley, from where many of its investors hail, it does fit the brief for a rapidly growing EV start-up.   

If Rivian does pick the UK, it’ll be a huge boost to the motor manufacturing industry which has been on rocky ground since Brexit and the pandemic, albeit with several big brands rubber stamping big investments to retain their presence here.

According to sky, a final decision will be made in the next few months.

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