Report: UK’s EV revolution will create 50 million sq ft of Gigafactories

The UK Government's current vision involves bringing seven Gigafactories online by 2027 

That is the headline conclusion of a new report from real estate services giant Savills, entitled ‘The Rise of Gigafactories’.

The report takes into account the UK Government’s ban on new petrol and diesel car sales, which will come into force from 2030, and its vision to also end new petrol and diesel van, heavy goods vehicles, bus and coach sales by 2040. Both of these policy visions were announced this year, in the lead-up to COP26.

Also accounted for is the significant growth in the Gigafactory project pipeline in recent times. Even before the new phase-out dates were confirmed by the Government, many automakers were preparing for exponential growth in electric vehicle (EV) sales.

A facility in Blyth, Northumberland, is set to become the UK’s first Gigafactory after BritishVolt gained planning permission in July and began work onsite shortly afterwards. It is expected to begin operations in 2023, with a 10GWh phase, and have two more phases of equal capacity added through to 2027.

Elsewhere, Nissan this summer unveiled plans to transform its Sunderland plant into an EV hub featuring a 9GWh Gigafactory. Then, Coventry Airport and Coventry City Council filed a planning application for a Gigafactory on the Airport’s estate. Tesla is also exploring the possibility of a UK site.

Nonetheless, the Savills report concludes that more action and investment from the private sector will be needed to scale Gigafactories in the UK at the scale and pace needed to support Government targets.

Investment could be leveraged, it argues, with better Government planning and strategizing to identify which sites are suitable for Gigafactory development and to make rents in these locations more affordable. More will also be done to ensure sites can access the energy they need and deliver the jobs they promise.

On the sites piece, the report states that Gigafactories and their associated warehouses could take up as much as 2,500 acres of land by 2040 – the same area size as the City of London. Careful planning will be needed to minimize environmental degradation, ensure energy access and attract workers – as well as ensuring affordability for developers.

To this latter point, Savills’ head of industrial and logistics research Kevin Mofid said: “With land values for prime industrial and logistics development sites rising by 32% in the past year, affordable land remains hard to come by.

“For this reason, the regions most likely to see Gigafactories locate are those markets where the public sector partners can help by delivering space for regeneration purposes. This primarily points to former areas of heavy industry where significant tracts of brownfield land are available, which already have large power supplies. This is why areas like the North East and South Wales seem very attractive to battery producers.”

Policy pressure

Recent months have seen a flurry of green policy announcements in the UK, with packages including the Heat and Transport Strategy, Environment Bill, Hydrogen Strategy and overarching Net-Zero Strategy progressing.

But there is still not a specific strategy for EV manufacturing, and the long-awaited updated skills plan is still in the pipeline.

MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) wrote to Ministers urging further funding for Gigafactories in June. The Committee’s letter outlines how other governments are typically supporting Gigafactories at a rate of £750m per plant, while the UK has pledged just £500m to the sector collectively, through the Automotive Transformation Fund. This is despite an ambition for the UK to host seven Gigafactories by 2027.

Then, in July, the House of Lords’ Science and Technology Select Committee released a report warning that there is only a short window of time in which to change EV-related policy significantly enough to align with key climate targets and ambitions on job creation, skills and economic growth. The Committee expressed particular concern over the readiness of the supply chain.

Sarah George

Comments (1)

  1. Kim Warren says:

    We bought an EV, thinking that we were cutting emissions, but now realise that every extra EV we put on the roads will be effectively powered 100% by burning more gas until most of the UK’s energy need is met by renewables [or nuclear]. And that won’t happen until after 2030 because we keep adding more power demand with more EVs and heat-pumps. Then there’s the 30million tons per year of CO2 it takes to build the things. So buying EVs saves virtually no CO2 emissions and may actually be increasing them.
    If businesses *really* want to cut emissions, then stop providing bigger-than-essential company cars, replace them less often, stop incentivising staff to drive more, and radically cut energy use and waste to bring forward the date when renewables can cover 100% of UK energy needs.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie