Electric car battery factories, like the one announced by Jaguar Land Rover owner Tata, are crucial for the UK’s future. In the same way that engines are the heart of petrol cars, batteries are the most important component in an electric car. They hold most of the value and are heavy and volatile, making transportation a challenge for car manufacturers.
The Importance of Battery Factories
If the UK wants to establish a thriving electric car industry, it needs a significant number of battery factories. These factories are responsible for the production of batteries, from the creation of cells to pasting chemicals onto electrodes. It’s not just about batteries; it’s about the wider car industry.
The Global Race for Gigafactories
Countries around the world are racing to build large-scale battery factories, also known as “gigafactories.” While economists debate the efficiency of this race, most industrial strategists agree that countries with car industries must keep up to prevent the loss of high-skilled manufacturing jobs to overseas competitors.
UK’s Position in the Race
Prior to the Tata gigafactory announcement, the UK was falling behind, with only one confirmed gigafactory planned for Nissan. However, the Tata gigafactory will boost the UK’s position in the race, with a production capacity of 40GWh, halfway towards the country’s target.
Challenges and Unknowns
Despite this progress, some argue that the UK still lags behind European and Asian competitors, with the rest of the world already having around 400 gigafactories. Additionally, it is unclear how much the UK government has contributed to secure the Tata deal or the details of Tata’s partnership for cell production.
The Future of the Battery Supply Chain
While Cornwall is planning lithium mines, the UK lacks chemical plants to turn this lithium into battery chemicals. Further development is needed in the battery supply chain, including the production of cathode active materials and other components.
The Tata gigafactory announcement is a significant step forward for the UK’s electric car industry, but challenges and uncertainties remain. The hope is that it will attract other suppliers and revitalize the battery sector, following recent difficulties.