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Williams Advanced Engineering bought by Australian metals giant


Australia's Fortescue Metals Group has bought Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) the technology and engineering services business of the Williams Group.

An offshoot from the Williams F1 team founded by the late Frank Williams, WAE is a world-leading technology and engineering business renowned for its ground-breaking projects in high performance battery systems and electrification. It provides the battery technology used in Formula E and Extreme E, and has assisted in the development of the electric Vanda Dendrobium car from Singapore. It has also worked with Jaguar to create the C-X75 hybrid supercar.

The acquisition, thought to be worth £165m, is intended to enable Fortescue to become a major player in the growing global market for green industrial transport equipment.

WAE will bring its race bred critical battery technology to FFI, which will in turn enable Fortescue, one of the largest iron ore producers in the world and a heavy carbon emitter, to realise its industry leading 2030 net-zero target. This will be achieved by working together to help bring green energy to life in programmes such as Fortescue's 3km long freight trains, 400 tonne haul trucks and industrial heavy mobile equipment.

The heavy industrial sector accounts for more than 20 per cent of global carbon emissions. Today's £164 million investment means Fortescue and FFI will acquire critical capabilities needed to help decarbonise this industry world-wide utilising FFI's green electricity, green hydrogen and ammonia which contains zero carbon.

"This is the race of our lifetimes," said Fortescue Founder and Chairman, Dr Andrew Forrest AO, "the race to save the planet from cooking. The speed at which we move matters. Together FFI and WAE will work to decarbonise Fortescue – with the aim of achieving that faster and more effectively than anyone else in the world.

"This is an historic moment in the future of our company as we welcome the WAE family into the Fortescue family to work together to de carbonise heavy industry and hard to abate sectors for the good of our planet, and the benefit of our shareholders.

"This announcement is the key to unlocking the formula for removing fossil fuel powered machinery and replacing it with zero carbon emission technology, powered by FFI green electricity, green hydrogen and green ammonia.

"For decades, Sir Frank Williams' F1 racing business was at the forefront of innovation in engineering and I thank him for his pioneering vision in founding WAE over a decade ago. I was sorry to hear of his passing last year and I pay tribute to him. I have huge respect for him, his family and the Williams' business,” said Dr Forrest.

Former deputy team principal of the Williams team, Claire Williams welcomed the announcement.

"Since the team sold a majority shareholding in WAE to EMK Capital a couple of years ago, EMK and the Management Team have done a fantastic job in taking the business forward. We are delighted that Fortescue are now taking over that mantle and see the value in the company and its people in tackling some of the biggest issues facing our world today. I am sure that they will continue to drive considerable success through the business and achieve further results in decarbonising heavy industry and tackling the issue of global warming.”

"High performance battery and electrification systems are at the core of what we do at WAE," added Craig Wilson, Chief Executive Officer WAE, "and this acquisition and investment will enable the company's further growth to support the delivery of zero emission products and services across existing sectors – such as automotive, motorsport and off-highway – and new sectors too. This will benefit all of our stakeholders along with current and future customers who are very important to us. My thanks also to EMK Capital for their support during the past two years that has enabled us to accelerate the successful progress of WAE and development of technologies to help tackle climate change”.

"We are delighted to play a key role in Fortescue's decarbonisation strategy, contributing to the delivery of their emissions reduction targets through high performance battery systems, green hydrogen and related technologies. We will also be focusing on addressing the sector-wide challenges in the off-highway sector. Both companies have a shared culture of innovation, setting and achieving challenging objectives and a genuine commitment to creating a sustainable future.”


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1. Posted by kenji, 27/01/2022 0:45

"@ Bill Hopgood...Yes, I am aware of all the pitfalls that hamper the hydrogen future but I would predict that they will be overcome, sooner rather than later at a timescale yet to be set in concrete. One interesting prospect that I read about some time ago was that rather than face a global infrastructure along the lines of the current system for fossil fuels that there is a lot of research going on to produce modular hydrogen generators that can be installed at existing facilities thereby eliminating a great deal of road delivery structures. The future of alternative fuels is exciting and IMO we'll end up with a mix that exploits all of the individual benefits sought by cleaning up our respective acts...and not solely at the behest of the 'tree huggers' all embracing ideology.

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2. Posted by Defiant, 26/01/2022 18:26

"@Bill Hopgood, you are very correct, and I agree that hydrogen has limitations but as you've highlighted it's a new technology. The ICE is a very different animal than it was 100 years ago and with the same will and effort it received, I have faith that all the points you made can be solved.
Call me a critic, but if you really analyse the dynamics of battery tech being promoted by governments and no push for hydrogen my main conclusion is battery vehicles will give the government more control of the movement of people.
If the limitations of hydrogen are overcome, we'd have a similar overall system of travel and refuel as we do now with ICE. Although personal storage isn't likely anytime soon, so that is major downside compared to diesel and petrol.
Battery is far easier to restrict.

The hypocrisy of battery tech being pushed is astounding, most countries already struggle to produce enough electricity without having to charge all the vehicles that would be needed if we do make a switch. How will the environmentalist tree huggers feel when each country builds 25+ new nuclear power plants to fill the gap, or the creation of many more huge mines to get the mineral for the battery. How about the idea that the lower end of the financial spectrum are no longer deemed worthy enough to own a vehicle due to lack of power supply if they do not build new power station.

Well there's another opinion slightly off topic."

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3. Posted by Bill Hopgood, 26/01/2022 17:20

"@kenji I used to think that hydrogen was a viable option until I discovered that hydrogen:
Wastes 30% of the electricity to make it (100KW of electricity = 70KW of usable electricity from hydrogen)
Is hard to store (needs to be very cold)
Hard to transport via ship (only one experimental ship exists with a cold pressure chamber)
Hard to transport via pipe (needs to be mixed with other gases, kept cool)

If the above problems can be solved then I'm back as an optimist for hydrogen's future for everyday transport.

I liked hydrogen because you can fill a car in under 10 minutes and you don't have range anxiety.

As for Fortisque's purchase, as @Max Noble points out this could be more to do with the politics (Tesla gets or got a lot of subsidies) and the "seen to be green" side of things, that being said if there is any useful operationally then it will be used.

In terms of ICE development, Mazda see a lot of potential in squeezing more power for less litres used however the politicians are flat out banning ICE and pushing the manufacturers to go EV.

Last week Suzuki and Isusu told the New Zealand government that they will pull out of the market here as they won't be able to meet the supply demands for EVs. Nissan and Toyota told the govt last year that if NZ moves out of step with Australia then certain models will be dropped. Tesla responded that they can fill the gap.
Japan is stoked that we have all their used Leaf models coming here so Japan doesn't have to worry about disposal the old battery's near the end of their useful life.

Meanwhile a guy operating a huge diesel electric truck in a mine scratches his head as he burns through tons of fuel moving ore containing lithium for an electric car that someone else will drive to reduce emissions.

We live in very strange times indeed."

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4. Posted by kenji, 25/01/2022 23:36

"@ Defiant ...I personally like the hydrogen concept due to it's many options either as a component of new fuel mixes or applied as fuel food for cell stacks. I have also dived into the Hydrogen stock market so I definitely want to see hydrogen success! Ethanol enriched with hydrogen has great potential and could well be a fuel of the future which will enable the ICE to have an extended life. The major problem that I see for the future is the storage and delivery systems needed to support a hydrogen supply system. As an engineer I regard the ICE as a work of mechanical/technological work of art and it holds quite some charm for me as opposed to electric motors which are just another component.... without a ' noisy ticking' heart hahaha"

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5. Posted by Defiant, 25/01/2022 20:28

"I know all us F1 fans love the ICE, and hope it remains for a while, but I also think most of us would agree an investment in hydrogen power is a way of the future, so I for one hope the Williams connection may well help the development of hydrogen powered vehicles, especially race ones.

My opinion is BeV's are a pointless direction when FCeV is right around the corner but its just an opinion.

Maybe this investment may help this happen. It's worth hoping for anyway."

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6. Posted by kenji, 25/01/2022 10:20

"The 'twigster' likes to think big and often. WA has more than their fair share of larger than life characters and Forrest certainly fits the bill. I like his hydrogen ideas...."

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7. Posted by Max Noble, 25/01/2022 3:37

"Twiggy is a canny operator. I think he and Bernie would get on… He is also pushing ”Blue Hydrogen” solutions, and seeking $$$$ from State governments to proceed. With this purchase it is clear he is having a bet both ways (inspired by Red Bull’s new sponsor no doubt! ;-) ) It is usually worth paying close attention to where Twiggy drops a few $$, as he generally turns out to be spot on. He was messing around with Cattle ranches and beef production in recent times, and promptly made a fortune there as well. A fascinating character.

If there is any merit in the Williams ideas I’m 100% confident he will get them to market, and make FMG even more profitable."

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8. Posted by kenji, 25/01/2022 0:40

"@Batman...The Williams family are mainly responsible for the dismantling of the Williams brand. "

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9. Posted by Batman, 24/01/2022 19:40

"Sadly, one more step along the path of dismantling the brand Williams. I can barely imagine how Williams family is reacting to this. "

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