Australian mining giant Fortescue Metals Group (FMG) has agreed terms to buy the UK-based engineering company spun-off from legendary racing team Williams F1, for £164 million ($A310m). 

    The acquisition from current majority owner EMK Capital is expected to be signed, sealed and delivered in March 2022.

    Williams Advanced Engineering (WAE) calls itself a “world-leading technology and engineering business renowned for its ground-breaking projects in high performance battery systems and electrification” – something that Fortescue wants to harness through its ‘Future Industries’ (FFI) full-subsidiary division.

    WAE also works in the areas of product development; aided by advanced simulation, testing, rapid prototyping and volume manufacturing. Since its 2010 spinoff from the parent, WAE has grown to around 400 staff and works with a “growing list” of tier 1 clients. 

    MORE: British motorsport giants commit to big environmental push

    One notable (but ultimately unfulfilled) project taken on by WAE in the past included partnering with Jaguar to create the C-X75 hybrid supercar, developed in just 18 months but ultimately cancelled at the end of 2012. 

    More recently, WAE has served as powertrain developer for the Extreme E off-road championship.

    The acquisition “brings together leading thinkers and engineers into one organisation,” FMG added.

    The company intends to tap into WAE’s F1 race-honed battery technology, it says. Why? The mining behemoth is one of the world’s largest iron ore producers and as such acknowledges its large carbon footprint – something it wants to drive down towards its 2030 net-zero target. 

    FMG and its FFI subsidiary say WAE’s cutting-edge low-emission engineering will “help bring green energy to life” in programmes such as 3km long freight trains, 400 tonne haul trucks, and industrial heavy mobile equipment. 

    “We have been working with WAE since early 2021, with WAE designing and building a battery system to power an electric mining haul truck; an important first step in the decarbonisation of Fortescue’s mining haul fleet,” added Fortescue’s chief executive Elizabeth Gaines.

    Not as sexy as F1 cars maybe, but these big haulers are a lot more carbon-intensive.

    “This is the race of our lifetimes – 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,”  added Fortescue Founder and Chairman Andrew ‘Twiggy’ Forrest AO.

    “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,” Dr Forrest finished.

    Sir Frank Williams died in November, his legacy being a team with a remarkable 16 F1 World Championships to its name. 

    WAE’s chief executive Craig Wilson said, “High performance battery and electrification systems are at the core of what we do at 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.” 

    Mike Costello
    Mike Costello is a Senior Contributor at CarExpert.
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