UK Government not serious about closing EV Gigafactory gap, MPs worry

The Business and Trade Committee has released the UK Government’s response to its Batteries and Electric Vehicles report. However, the Committee’s chair has raised concerns over the Government’s failure to meet key tests outlined in the report, potentially risking around 160,000 jobs in the automotive sector.

UK Government not serious about closing EV Gigafactory gap, MPs worry

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The Committee published its first report of session 2023–24, ‘Batteries for electric vehicle manufacturing’, on 21 November 2023.

In the report, the Committee laid out seven clear tests for the Government’s plan to ensure the UK avoids a ‘giga-gap’ in electric vehicle (EV) production.

These tests focused on areas such as direct financial support for gigafactories, access to energy, targeted support for suitable gigafactory locations, funding for skills, tariff-free market access and de-risking mineral supply chains, among others.

Despite the Government’s reference to its Advanced Manufacturing Plan and UK Battery Strategy as evidence of industry support in its response, published this week, the Committee has cautioned that the Government has failed to grasp the extent of current policy gaps.

The Committee is emphasising the need for a long-term vision and clear action plan to achieve the goal of 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery manufacturing capacity by 2030.

Business and Trade Committee’s chair Liam Byrne said: “We were pleased to see our progress around tariff-free trade, skills, critical minerals and long-term R&D. Those ingredients are really important.

“But frankly I’m alarmed that the Government has no plan to even benchmark the sort of industrial support that might be needed to ensure Britain becomes one of the world’s favourite places to invest.

“And nor did the Government take our advice providing long-term certainty on energy costs for battery makers, or the designation of key sites for building the gigafactories of the future.”

Government response: Private sector responsibility

One specific concern highlighted by the Committee was the Government’s stance on Tata’s £4bn investment in a new gigafactory, with questions raised about whether it would supply other UK carmakers beyond Jaguar Land Rover (JLR).

The Government asserted that such matters were the responsibility of private companies.

Byrne added: “Ministers’ preferred approach is to leave as much as possible to the market but that’s not how our competitors are behaving. We can’t merely gently accelerate into a global race for a key industry of tomorrow while others are going full throttle.

“The risk we now run is that a domestic industry won’t be built as fast as it might be, and the big global players might look elsewhere.”

Global gigafactory race

The UK, currently the sixth-largest car manufacturer in Europe, faces significant competition in the EV sector, with other countries aggressively investing in this fast-growingindustry.

Despite the Government’s recent announcement of a £4.5 billion package for strategic manufacturing sectors, including £2bn for the automotive sector, concerns persist regarding the timeliness and efficacy of these measures.

Earlier this month, the House of Lords urged the Government to provide an update on the progress of the Advanced Manufacturing Plan and Battery Strategy by the summer of 2025.

Comments (2)

  1. Andrew Brown says:

    The Government is in my view quite right to be wary of investment in this because the technological direction is highly volatile and subject to extreme disruption. The investment should be toward mirroring the business subsidies on EV’s with private buyer support .
    We need to face the reality of our position as vehicle assemblers and accept that self sufficiency in all things is a ridiculous fantasy.
    lets focus on what we are good at.

  2. Richard Phillips says:

    There may also be some problem with the lack of technical knowledge in the Commons.
    MPs are not usually science graduates, naturally, but it is an area which impinges more and more upon political decisions.
    I understand that the French Deputies have to have a certain level of their education both the scientific and administrative disciplines, they thus understand the science so much better that way.

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