News of a £4bn electric vehicle battery plant coming to the UK has made an impact in the North East where supply chain firms are hopeful of future contracts.
Tata Group, the owner of luxury car brand Jaguar Land Rover, confirmed long running speculation that it will build a gigafactory at a UK location, widely reported to be Somerset. It will be the manufacturer’s first such facility outside of India, and is likely to be one of the largest ever investments in the country’s automotive industry.
The move has been welcome by North East supply chain firms, some of whom had previously signalled alarm at the country seemingly slipping behind international competitors in the electric vehicle production stakes. Tata’s commitment, described by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak as “testament to the strength of our car manufacturing industry and its skilled workers”, revives hopes for the industry, particularly in the North East which had hoped to host the country’s second gigafactory before the high profile collapse of Britishvolt, earlier this year. Question marks remain over the successor to its Northumberland site.
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Paul Butler, CEO, North East Automotive Alliance, said: “JLR is the second biggest producer of vehicles in the UK, it’s great that its owners, Tata, has now decided to establish a £4bn battery manufacturing facility here in the UK. Securing battery supply is critical to the success of the UK’s automotive sector going forward.
“Given the North East’s strengths in vehicle electrification, our established battery manufacturing capability and the new AESC facility being built on IAMP, I’m sure there will be opportunities for some of the region’s businesses to support the JLR facility in Somerset.”
Meanwhile, Sunderland-based maker of vehicle trim products, Faltec Europe Ltd, described Tata’s announcement as great news. Alice Ambrose-Thurman, director at the Nissan supplier, said: “This provides a significant boost for the UK car industry, and Faltec, who has previously worked with JLR, look forward to exploring new opportunities to provide trim products for these new vehicles, creating new jobs for the region and further feeding our supply chain.”
As it stands, the Tata gigafactory will be the country’s second with Envision AESC’s existing – and soon to be expanded – Sunderland facility being the first. The investment is expected to create up to 4,000 jobs with the Government saying the factory will produce half of the batteries needed by 2030 to fuel the country’s switch to electric motoring.
Labour’s Darren Jones, chair of the Commons Business and Trade Committee, called for reflection on the subsidy package – as yet unknown – offered to Tata. He said the approach needed to be “scalable to meet the need for further battery manufacturing sites for other car companies across the UK”.
Colin Herron of the North East Battery Alliance said: “The UK has very tough emission reduction targets for cars and vans for 2030 then zero emission from 2035. To do this we need at least 90GWh of battery production or we need to import batteries at a huge cost. This plant along with the Sunderland AESC construction go a long way to achieving that target. A second benefit is that, the larger the battery industry is the more it becomes attractive to the supply chain, this puts the North East with its growing battery ecosystem in pole place to maximise on the opportunity.”
Quentin Willson, founder of campaign group FairCharge, said: “While this is a very significant development for UK battery manufacturing, I truly hope that other companies in the battery, critical minerals, charging and EV supply chains won’t be neglected. The Government should see this subsidy as the beginning of building a battery ecosystem in this country.
“There is a genuine fear in the industry that it could sweep up all available government support, which would be hugely detrimental to the future health of the UK in the race to zero. We have some world class battery and EV talent and we must support them as much as we can to prevent this valuable resource of innovators moving to other more receptive markets.”
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