Coventry unveils plans to host battery Gigafactory by 2025
Coventry City Council has partnered with a local airport to develop plans for a major battery Gigafactory that would help to scale up the local electric vehicle (EV) and energy sectors.
The local authority has today (16 February) confirmed that it is partnering with Coventry Airport Ltd to develop plans for the facility, which will be located within the Airport’s estate. The two organisations expect to file an outline planning application later this year and have received an endorsement from the West Midlands Combined Authority (WMCA), which comprises the region’s seven urban councils. The WMCA has officially named Coventry Airport as the preferred site for the region’s first Gigafactory.
In the absence of planning documents, details about the proposed Gigafactory’s size and capacity remain scarce. However, Coventry City Council has forecast that it could attract up to £2bn on investment and create some 4,000 jobs directly and indirectly.
These forecasts are based on the fact that 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. Just this week, JLR pledged to phase out diesel, petrol and hybrid models from the Jaguar brand by 2025.
In its calculations, Coventry City Council has also accounted for the UK Government’s commitment to building “a robust battery supply chain to realise our ambitions of making the EVs of the future here in the UK”. The Government has made up to £500m of funding available for battery production in the UK and the Coventry partnership “will be bidding in due course” for a share.
Coventry City Council expects the Gigafactory to begin operations in 2025 if the planning process runs to time and Government funding is secured.
“I have been utterly obsessed with securing a Gigafactory for the West Midlands due to the huge economic and job benefits it would bring, and so I am delighted we have announced our preferred site and taken a huge leap forward today,” West Midlands Mayor Andy Street said.
“The point I have been ferociously lobbying to Government is that the West Midlands is the natural place for a UK Gigafactory as we are already home to the country’s biggest car manufacturer, Europe’s largest research centre, the UK’s only battery industrialisation centre and a world-leading supply chain.
“By announcing the site now and driving forward with a planning application and a joint venture, we are showing how united and serious the region is about making this happen. The next step is to submit the case to Government to win the funding required, and discussions are already well underway with the UK’s leading carmakers and battery suppliers across the globe to put together the strongest bid possible. I will not rest until the West Midlands has the Gigafactory it needs.”
The bigger picture
The Government’s initial £500m competition fund for EV battery production is reportedly set to be built on this year with a £1bn automotive transformation fund.
The fund would build on the Ten-Point Plan for the green recovery, which was published in November 2020. Aside from confirming the new date for the petrol and diesel car sale ban, committed £1.3bn to EV infrastructure. The Treasury had already committed £500m to the EV charging sector through the 2020 Budget.
Some automakers, trade bodies and green groups have claimed that while the 2030 target is ambitious and necessary, more support is needed to ensure delivery. Specific gaps remain in terms of domestic EV and battery manufacturing capacity and with EV charging infrastructure. A recent Policy Exchange briefing revealed that some 35,000 chargers will need to be installed every year through 2030 to support policy aims in this space, up from a rate of 7,000 every year at present.
Elsewhere in the UK, 30 GWh Gigafactory has been proposed by manufacturer Britishvolt. The firm confirmed last summer that it has shortlisted two potential sites for the facility, both located in Wales. It wishes to co-locate the facility with a solar farm. Tesla is also reportedly keen to bring a UK Gigafactory online. Last year, the firm was spotted assessing a 635-acre site in Somerset.