The UK needs to construct at least four gigafactories or risk losing its entire automotive market, the former boss of Aston Martin has warned the Government.
At least one gigafactory is planned for the UK already, with construction set to begin on Britishvolt’s battery facility in Northumberland later this summer. However, that won’t nearly be enough to satisfy the demand for electric vehicle batteries in the UK, with Dr Andy Palmer, the former boss of Aston Martin and Nissan product planning chief, urging the Government to get at least four gigafactories up and running in the next five years.
The reason for the urgent need for gigafactories is down to the UK’s decision to leave the European Union and the terms it struck with the bloc. Under the deal agreed by both sides, it was agreed that by 2026 batteries for electric vehicles will contain no more than 50% of international components if they want to avoid substantial tariffs. That means the UK needs to produce its own batteries or rely on those made in the European Union, as it won’t be able to use batteries made in China, Japan or America without facing those punitive tariffs.
“Without electric vehicle batteries made in the UK, the country’s auto industry risks becoming an antiquated relic and overtaken by China, Japan, America and Europe,” Palmer said in an open letter to the Prime Minister and Business Secretary. He noted that the 800,000 jobs linked to the automotive sector could be at risk if the UK Government failed to attract the construction of more gigafactories.
What can the UK do to build more gigafactories?
Palmer has suggested that the UK Government establishes a ‘Gigafactory Taskforce’ that will be tasked with coming up with a plan that will allow the construction of more battery-making facilities in the UK. He noted that the failure to construct these facilities will see car makers flee to markets where the batteries are constructed.
This isn’t the first time the UK Government has been urged to construct at least four gigafactories. The Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC), the body in charge of disbursing UK government investment in the automotive sector, previously estimated that the UK will need batteries with a capacity of 60 GWh a year, implying the need for four gigafactories. Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, a specialist information provider for the lithium ion battery to electric vehicle supply chain, concurred with those findings.
While the UK has so far seen the approval of one gigafactory in the form of Britishvolt’s facility in Northumberland, it’s clear that the Government needs to attract even more investment in the market on British shores.