Auto industry calls for battery gigafactory push ahead of Nissan announcement

The UK auto industry has today called for the government to invest in a string of battery gigafactories or risk tens of thousands of job losses.

The calls come amid reports that car giant Nissan will this week lay out plans to build such a plant in Sunderland, in what would be a huge vote of confidence for the UK car industry.

This morning car trade association the Society for Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) released a new strategy calling for a commitment to 60 gigawatts of battery capacity in the UK by 2030.

In the best case society, such a programme could create 40,000 new jobs across the UK. But the failure to do so could risk 90,000 roles, the SMMT said.

It added that building these facilities would give carmakers the ability to produce up to 1m electric vehicles a year and ensure tariff free access to critical markets in the EU.

Under the Brexit agreement, from 2026 cars with batteries made outside of the UK or EU will be subject to single market levies.

Gigafactories, plants in which batteries for electric cars are made, have been deemed vital to the UK’s plans to phase out petrol and diesel cars by 2030.

The Faraday Institution, an organisation that researches batteries for the car industry, has said that the UK will need eight gigafactories by 2040 to meet demand.

Start-up Britishvolt has already committed to building the UK’s first such facility, in Blyth in Northumberland.

The SMMT also said that the government should commit to installing 2.3m charging points nationwide before the end of the decade. 

Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said, “The next few years represent a critical period for the sector. The pace of technological change is accelerating and the competition more ferocious. 

“If we are to secure vehicle manufacturing in this country, with all the benefits to society that it brings, decisions need to be made today.”

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Coventry City Council, which has put forward a gigafactory proposal in partnership with Coventry airport, welcomed the SMMT’s proposals.

Councillor Jim O’Boyle, cabinet member for jobs, regeneration and climate change, said the West Midlands should be at the heart of such plans.

“A third of all cars produced in the UK come from the region – which is home to Jaguar Land Rover, BMW, Lotus, and Aston Martin Lagonda. One or two Gigafactories in the North of England won’t be enough to drive the EV revolution”, he said.

“If we are to protect and create tens of thousands of jobs in our world-leading automotive sector we must secure battery manufacturing in the West Midlands”.

Industry awaits Nissan announcement

Ashwani Gupta, Nissan’s chief operating officer, could unveil the gigafactory plan when he lays out the automaker’s strategy at a briefing on Thursday, it was reported yesterday.

The Japanese car giant, which builds the Leaf in the city, has been in talks with the government for months over the move.

It is hoped that building such a facility could create thousands of jobs in the north-east.

The government will reportedly support the project financially, although the size of its investment into the project has not yet been disclosed.

A number of other firms, including Samsung, are also reportedly holding talks with the government about building similar facilities.

A Nissan spokesman said: “Having established electric vehicle and battery production in the UK in 2013 for the Nissan Leaf, our Sunderland plant has played a pioneering role in developing the electric vehicle market.

“As previously announced, we will continue to electrify our line-up as part of our global journey towards carbon neutrality, however we have no further plans to announce at this time.”


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