Coventry battery Gigafactory plans given the go-ahead
Outline planning permission has been granted for the development of a new Gigafactory for electric vehicle (EV) batteries in the West Midlands, with the developers hoping to begin operations in 2025.
Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport first announced plans to develop the Gigafactory in February 2021, and subsequently filed a planning application five months later. A decision was expected in September 2021 but Covid-19 has caused delays.
Planning and licensing officials at Coventry City Council and Warwick District Council finally met on Thursday (13 January) to discuss the planning documents, collectively resolving to approve the proposals. Formal approval is still pending, according to Coventry City Council’s planning portal.
The proposal is to base a Gigafactory on the Airport’s estate, across 5.3 million square feet of land. The factory would be able to deliver up to 60GWh of batteries between 2025, when operations are due to begin, and 2030, the developers claim. It will also feature battery recycling facilities. Research from organisations including the University of Birmingham has proven that the UK’s EV stock is growing faster than recycling infrastructure, laying the foundations for a future resource challenge.
Batteries produced at – and recycled at – the Gigafactory will predominantly be from the EV sector. The West Midlands plays host to several major automotive firms, which will need to shift to EVs in line with the government’s 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. They include Jaguar Land Rover (JLR), Aston Martin Lagonda, BMW and LEVC, the UK’s only electric taxi manufacturer. However, the Gigafactory will also be open to businesses in the energy storage sector.
“With outline planning permission supported, the site has everything in place that future investors, likely to be drawn from the global battery industry, need for a state-of-the-art Gigafactory,” said project director Mike Murray.
“ Thanks to this decision, we are now in a strong position to progress our discussions with the global automotive and energy storage industries.”
Also detailed in the plans are proposals for the Gigafactory to be fitted with a rooftop solar array and co-located energy storage facility. Any excess electricity demand will be met using 100% renewable energy, sourced using clean energy tariffs and/or Power Purchase Agreements (PPAs).
The developers and councillors at both local authorities agree that the next step before full planning permission is granted will be securing the support of at least one major investor. A planning statement outlines that the developers expect the project to attract £2.5bn of investment across the West Midlands and to create up to 6,000 direct jobs.
Investment, as well as permissions from the Government, completion of a legal agreement and the formal planning assent should all be announced by the end of March, according to the Airport and Coventry City Council.
“The West Midlands is already home to the country’s biggest car manufacturer, Europe’s largest research centre of its kind, the UK’s only battery industrialisation centre, and a world-leading supply chain,” said West Midlands Mayor Andy Street.
“A Gigafactory is, therefore, the natural next step for the UK’s automotive heartland, and, working in partnership with industry and the Government, we will not rest until we have secured one.”
The UK Government’s overarching ambition on Gigafactories is for seven facilities to be operational by the end of 2027.
However, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee and representatives on the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee have both warned Ministers that, at present, short-term funding packages and other policy supports are not enough to help the private sector realise this vision.
The UK Government published a flurry of low-carbon primary policy packages last year including the Heat and Buildings Strategy, Transport Decarbonisation Plan and overarching Net-Zero Strategy. However, there is not yet a sector deal for EV manufacturing or a green skills plan, which some say could undermine the 2030 ban on new petrol and diesel car sales. Moreover, the Government is currently being taken to court over its Net-Zero Strategy, with ClientEarth and Friends of the Earth arguing that it does not contain enough detail to be in keeping with the UK’s legally binding climate targets.
A report from Savills, published last November, forecasts that the UK will need up to 50 million square feet of battery factories and warehouses.
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