Fortescue buys Williams F1 battery to boost green energy transition

The green investment division of Fortescue Metals Group has agreed to purchase the battery and technology arm of the Williams Formula One racing team for £164 million.

The Australian mining group said it would use battery systems and electrification technology acquired by Fortescue Future Industries to help achieve its goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.

Andrew Forrest, the billionaire founder and chairman of Fortescue, told the Financial Times the deal was the “first heavy industry merger with state-of-the-art electrical technology” and that he closed the deal after the mining company “scoured the world for battery technology.” .”

He said electrification and battery expertise will add a third pillar, along with green hydrogen and ammonia, to a new strategy and company capable of reducing carbon emissions from heavily polluting industries, including mining and transportation.

Fortescue plans to use the new systems to modify its 3km freight trains, heavy industrial equipment and trucks to reduce emissions at its mining sites, it said.

The first major project will be an electric “infinity train” concept, Fortescue said, which is expected to become a major development in the green industrial transportation sector.

Williams, one of motorsport’s most well-known names, was sold to US fund Dorilton Capital in 2020 for €152 million, seen as an admission that the team could no longer compete with better-funded rivals such as Red Bull, Ferrari and Mercedes Benz.

The team was founded in 1977 by Sir Frank Williams and was successful, winning 16 Drivers and Constructors’ Championships in the 20 years to 1997. But it has not won since, finishing last on the starting grid for two consecutive seasons prior to the sale before finishing eighth out of 10 teams in the most recent season.

The Williams Advanced Engineering division, which employs 250 people, was created to support the development of better engine technology.

The unit also focused on saving energy for businesses outside of racing. Williams worked with Unilever to reduce energy consumption from soap manufacturing processes. It also adapted aerodynamic models used for the rear wings of its cars to reduce the amount of power needed for supermarket refrigerators.

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The unit worked with miners, including Anglo American and Fortescue, on fuel cell technology. Forrest hopes the acquisition can help fossil fuel companies make the green transition.

“If you try to get away from oil, gas and coal, you find barriers everywhere,” he said.

He expects the Williams team to remain in Wantage, the company’s leafy Oxfordshire base, and the battery engineers to remain “inseparable” from the racing side of the company.

“Their challenges on the track are our challenges in the world,” he said. “It’s great to win a Formula 1 race, but we’re all in a race. . . against climate change.”

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