Plans for a Hull firm’s major expansion of truck body production on the back of a huge contract win with a pioneering electric vehicle manufacturer have been left in tatters.
Paneltex was gearing up to add hundreds more jobs with a new factory in East Yorkshire to serve Swedish start-up Volta. But the company is now in the process of filing for bankruptcy after the loss of its battery supplier severely denting investor confidence.
Applications are being made in the various geographic jurisdictions it was operating in, with proceedings starting in Sweden, while it has confirmed the main trading entity – Volta Trucks Ltd – will shortly file for administration in England. Alvarez & Marshal is to be appointed.
Paneltex was selected to supply the cargo body for the vehicles. The contract win, in early 2022, saw it quickly move to secure the former Intergreen site at Dianthus Business Park – just off the A63 between Newport and North Cave – for dedicated production, with 140,000 sq ft of space and 240 jobs eyed when fully operational.
Chris Berridge, managing director, was told early Tuesday morning. He said: “Until we have a more detailed statement from them it is hard to say exactly what will happen. It’s obviously a blow to us, particularly as our new factory is almost complete and has only recently started series production of Volta bodies for assembly in Austria.
“For now we have stopped production and are awaiting more information to enable us to determine plans for the future at North Cave. We are in the fortunate position of having a very strong order book with other customers, which is obviously helpful.”
The company had seen the “exciting development” as a “game-changer” in the mid-term, with a 40 per cent hike in turnover forecast shortly after the contract win. Sales in the last audited year sat at £74 million. The Volta work came on the back of a demand surge for last-mile delivery for supermarkets, following rapid acceleration of the home delivery model through Covid.
A statement from the board at Volta Trucks said: “Volta Trucks accomplished a great deal from a standing start in 2019, revolutionising commercial vehicle operations for a sustainable future. We created the world’s first purpose built 16-tonne all-electric truck, including a unique cab and chassis design, that would have contributed to decarbonising the environment and enhanced the health and safety and air quality of urban centres. Piloting in five countries in Europe, we received fantastic feedback, which led to a strong pipeline of highly reputed customers who wanted to introduce our Volta Zero Trucks into their fleets.
“However, like all scale-ups in the EV manufacturing sector, Volta Trucks has faced challenges along the way. The recent news that our battery supplier – Proterra – has filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy, has had a significant impact on our manufacturing plans, reducing the volume of vehicles that we had forecast to produce. The uncertainty with our battery supplier also negatively affected our ability to raise sufficient capital in an already challenging capital-raising environment for electric vehicle players.”
Manufacturing of the Volta Zero had begun in April in Austria, with Paneltex serving initial orders from Hull as planning consents were finalised for the new facility. Where the business was positioned in terms of investment into the site is not clear, while there may be potential for another vehicle manufacturer to take on the brand.
On the “difficult decision”, reached “with deep and sincere regret,” the Volta board added: “The board has not taken this course easily or lightly and is fully aware of the significant impact this will have on the organisation’s dedicated workforce, as well as customers and partners. We would like to sincerely thank the Volta Trucks team and are incredibly proud of their pioneering work to deliver such an innovative zero emission commercial vehicle.”
Original artice – https://business-live.co.uk/all-about/yorkshire-humber