'Vote of confidence' for industrial strategy as BMW plans to build electric Mini in UK
BMW's announcement that it is to build the first fully-electric version of the iconic Mini in the UK has been welcomed as a "landmark vote of confidence" for the UK's low-carbon transport sector by Business Secretary Greg Clark.
The carmaker announced on Tuesday (25 July) that its new battery-electric 'Mini E' will go into production in 2019, in addition to a plug-in hybrid variant. The vehicle's electric drivetrain will be built at the firm’s e-mobility centre in Bavaria before being integrated into vehicles at BMW’s main production line in Oxford.
The announcement was immediately welcomed by Clark, who earlier this week unveiled the first phase of a four-year £246m investment into battery technology.
“This landmark decision is a vote of confidence in the determination of our Industrial Strategy to make Britain the go-to place in the world for the next generation of vehicles,” Clark said. “BMW’s decision recognises the strength of the excellent workforce, our record of innovation and the productive relationship between the automotive sector and the Government.”
One of the key concerns surrounding Brexit was the nation’s ability to retain and attract key businesses, with some eying moves to mainland Europe to avoid political and economic uncertainty. BMW’s decision to roll-out the Mini E through its UK production line is therefore a welcome announcement all-round.
It follows an announcement from Nissan to build two new car models at a Sunderland facility, potentially protecting around 7,000 jobs, while Jaguar Land Rover has said it continues to view the UK as a central hub for its electrification plans.
BMW expects EVs to account for between 15-25% of car sales by 2025, and has backed the transition with more than £89m in investments at one of its manufacturing hubs in Dingolfing, Germany.
Speaking of the new Mini E production, BMW’s management board member for production Oliver Zipse said: “BMW Group Plants Dingolfing and Landshut play a leading role within our global production network as the company’s global competence centre for electric mobility.
“Our adaptable production system is innovative and able to react rapidly to changing customer demand. If required, we can increase production of electric drivetrain motor components quickly and efficiently, in line with market developments.”
Earlier this year, the Government awarded more than £109m of government funding to develop driverless and low-carbon vehicles, including select projects led by BMW. In total, 38 projects led by BMW, CNH Industrial, Ford Motor Company, Jaguar Land Rover, Penso Consulting, Westfield Sportscars and Williams Advanced Engineering will be backed by the funds, and it is believed the project pipeline will safeguard 2,370 UK jobs.
Elsewhere, BMW is partnering with fellow carmakers Volkswagen and Ford to create one of Europe's highest-powered charging networks to enable long-range travel for EVs. Planned to start in 2017, an initial 400 sites have been earmarked across Europe, and by 2020 customers should have easy access to thousands of charging points.