Jaguar Land Rover to invest £4bn in new gigafactory: industry reaction

Posted on 19 Jul 2023 by Joe Bush

Following the recent turmoil surrounding Britishvolt, the UK automotive industry has been given a boost with the announcement from Jaguar Land Rover’s parent company Tata, of plans for a new battery gigafactory in Somerset.

The new £4bn electric vehicle battery factory is targeting a capacity of 40GWh (almost half of the battery production that the Faraday Institution estimates the UK will need by 2030), with production due to commence at the 616-acre Gravity Smart Campus site in Somerset as soon as 2026, to help meet the rapidly increasing demand for electric vehicles. The new Jaguar Land Rover factory is also predicted to create over 4,000 jobs and thousands more in the wider supply chain.

The new factory, which will also be supported by government subsidies, will be one of the largest in Europe and will make batteries for Jaguar Land Rover vehicles like Range Rover, the Defender and the Jaguar brands.

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “With the global transition to zero emission vehicles well underway, this will help grow our economy by driving forward our lead in battery technology.”

With the Envisionplant plant in Sunderland as the only other battery site in the country at gigafactory scale, the UK is lagging behind the EU when it comes to EV battery production, so the news will come as a welcome shot in the arm for the sector and the economy, encouraging investment and replacing jobs likely to be lost as production of diesel and petrol vehicles is wound down over the next decade.

In order to a compete internationally and help preserve the UK automotive industry, battery production needs to be scaled up rapidly across both the UK and Europe. This situation is exacerbated by tariffs due to be imposed across the UK and EU unless a certain proportion of a car is produced in one of those jurisdictions. As an EV battery makes up around half of a vehicle’s weight it is crucial the UK vastly scales up battery production. As such, gigafactories are the most efficient way to do this.

Commenting on the company’s website, Tata’s Chairman, N Chandrasekaran, said: “The Tata group is deeply committed to a sustainable future across all of our business. Today, I am delighted to announce the Tata group will be setting up one of Europe’s largest battery cell manufacturing facilities in the UK. Our multi-billion pound investment will bring state-of-the-art technology to the country, helping to power the automotive sector’s transition to electric mobility, anchored by our own business, Jaguar Land Rover.

“With this strategic investment, the Tata group further strengthens its commitment to the UK, alongside our many companies operating here across technology, consumer, hospitality, steel, chemicals and automotive. I also want to thank His Majesty’s Government, which has worked so closely with us to enable this investment.”

Mike Hawes, SMMT Chief Executive, said: “This is a shot in the arm for the UK automotive industry, our economy and British manufacturing jobs, demonstrating the country is open for business and electric vehicle production. It comes at a critical moment, with the global industry transitioning at pace to electrification, producing batteries in the UK is essential if we are to anchor wider vehicle production here for the long term. We must now build on this announcement by promoting the UK’s strengths overseas, ensuring we stay competitive amid fierce global pressures and do more to scale up our EV supply chain.”

Dr Graham Hoare OBE, CEO, Manufacturing Technology Centre (MTC) and co-chair of UK Automotive Council commented on the need for gigafactories in the UK and the benefit of the new factory for the nation: “The news that the UK has been chosen as the home of Tata Group’s first gigafactory outside India is a significant boost to the UK economy. It provides much needed confidence to the supply chain, secures a pipeline for thousands of high-skilled jobs in Somerset and across the UK and is an important step on our net-zero journey.

“The UK is in urgent need of gigafactories if it is to retain a homegrown automotive industry in the new era of electric motoring. This news sends a powerful message that the UK is committed to growing its battery capability and at the MTC we will continue to use our expertise to enable the supply chain to take full advantage of these opportunities”.

In response to the announcement, David Greenwood, Professor of Advanced Propulsion systems, Warwick Manufacturing Group at the University of Warwick, said: “This is fantastic news and secures the future of our UK auto industry which would otherwise have been lost by 2035.

“Furthermore, this secures the supply chain meaning we’ve kept those jobs for everyone across the country. This announcement means that the UK is now above ‘critical mass’ for supply chain companies and therefore, sets the UK up to be an attractive place for businesses to invest to supply upstream and downstream materials needed for electric vehicle production.

“As one of the UK’s biggest academic institutions working in the area of battery and electric vehicle innovation, this is great news for all 250 of our researchers – we will now see the results of our work used in UK-based industries and benefiting UK taxpayers rather than being exploited by competitors abroad.

“This is the culmination six years work here at Warwick Manufacturing Group – we helped the UK government set up the Faraday Battery Challenge which was a key part of the then government’s industrial strategy. That investment has now borne fruit. Clearly, we now need to define our future vision and strategy as the global industrial landscape evolves at breakneck speed.

“This means the Prime Minister has realised he must provide sufficient investment to ensure the country is a competitive runner in the global race to dominate the markets created by the massive green transition needed to avert climate catastrophe.”

Battery recycling Researchers at the University of Warwick estimate that by 2040 339,000 tonnes of batteries are expected to reach the end of their life in the UK alone. David added: “While we are busy building all these electric cars, we also need to think about what happens at the end of their useful life. Batteries contain significant quantities of materials which are costly to extract and refine and which could be hazardous to the environment if improperly disposed of.

“Investment is needed to create suitable recycling facilities in the UK within the next few years, and beyond that further research is needed to allow economic recovery of much greater proportions of the battery material. In doing so we will protect the environment, secure valuable raw materials, and reduce the cost of transport.”

Austin Owens, Co-Chair of the Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN), a collective of seven sub-contract manufacturers and a specialist engineering design agency added: “It’s great news that the UK is going to have a battery gigafactory on a scale that shows serious investment in green transport.

“The reported 4,000 direct jobs set to be created will undoubtedly lead to many more in the supply chain and that is a welcome boost. It would also be good to think that this is part of a bigger investment story, where other similar plants contribute to a modern-day expansion of the UK automotive industry.

“However, let’s not forget that batteries and electric vehicles are part of a much bigger environmental and economic picture. Electric vehicles need a charging infrastructure based on green energy and industry needs access to cheaper green energy.

“The Manufacturing Assembly Network (MAN) has been calling out for a coherent industrial strategy and has responded by launching our own MANifesto around international trade, people, innovation, and sustainability. This announcement today feeds directly into all four of those pillars.

“How wonderful would it be if this is part of a long-term view, where the UK re-establishes itself within the automotive field, but also invests in R&D conducted by well-trained young scientists and engineers working on this and the next generation of energy storage?

Tony Hague, CEO of PP Control & Automation, one of the UK’s leading providers of control and automation, contract manufacturing and strategic manufacturing outsourcing added: “Tata’s announcement today is such a strategically important investment for the UK, not only for the direct jobs it will create, but, importantly, in the impact it will have on the downward supply chain required to support it.

“This is where I believe we are still at a crossroads. It is superb news that we have this huge battery plant coming, that’s the first thing. However, we will be missing a massive GDP opportunity if we don’t put plans in place to ensure that it is UK companies who supply the content and technical knowledge required to make the batteries here.

“We can’t afford to have this state-of-the-art plant and then ‘farm out’ large parts of the component and sub-contract value to overseas suppliers. If we can get this right, then the actual positive impact will be way more than the £4bn going into Somerset.

“The good news is that we already have massive strengths in this area, and we have the early signs of a very good supply chain that is leading the world in producing components that go into these batteries.

“Let’s use this opportunity to really invest and upskill in the wider engineering sectors, so we have a fit for purpose and competitive UK-centric supply chain that cannot only support this exciting new investment, but equally take advantage of further opportunities that will certainly present themselves within the electrification sector.

“When it comes to government incentives to attract this investment decision, I unapologetically congratulate Rishi Sunak and co for what they’ve done. Attracting these global companies means doing battle with many locations all over the world and, indeed, governments who are only too willing to sweeten the deal – it’s about time we switched on to how the rest of the world operates.

“In property, you tend to need an anchor tenant and then the rest of the retailers follow… this is no different in automotive. With Tata and Jaguar Land Rover taking the plunge, hopefully we’ll see more inward investment and maybe even other car makers placing their faith in what the UK can deliver.”

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