UK motor industry warns jobs at risk without more battery factories

More than 90,000 automotive jobs are at risk if the country does not build enough battery factories to support carmaking in the UK, the industry’s trade body has warned.

Building only one new battery plant by 2030 would push the industry into a decline, leading to lost jobs and factory closures, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders said in a report on Tuesday.

High energy costs, low government incentives compared with other nations, and the friction of post-Brexit trade all mean the industry may “underperform its potential”, according to the SMMT.

The UK government has said it wants to make Britain the most attractive place in the world to make electric vehicles.

Nissan will this week announce a new battery plant at Sunderland to allow it to produce electric vehicles at scale. But more sites are needed to protect the network of plants that includes Jaguar Land Rover, Toyota and BMW’s Mini that rely on internal combustion engines.

Six potential investors are in talks to produce batteries in the UK, the FT reported last week, though none of the talks are finalised.

The industry will need factories capable of building 60 gigawatt hours’ worth of batteries a year — the equivalent of three new Nissan sites — by 2030 just to remain at its current size, according to the SMMT report.

Building up to 80GWh of capacity would create up to 40,000 new jobs across the industry and spur further investment, it said.

The government’s funding pot of £500m to attract battery makers needed to increase significantly to close the “growing gap” with the EU’s €2.9bn war chest, it added.

SMMT chief executive Mike Hawes said that government ambitions needed to be matched by investments. “If ambitious words were currency, the UK would be rich,” he told the SMMT annual summit, saying the UK was “falling behind our competition”.

He added: “With the wrong government decisions, we will become consumers not producers; spectators not innovators.”


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