In a recent report titled “Batteries for Electric Vehicle Manufacturing,” the UK House of Commons Business and Trade Committee outlined the current state of the UK’s battery manufacturing sector and its implications for the electric vehicle (EV) industry. The detailed report highlights the need for significant investment in battery manufacturing to ensure the survival and growth of the UK’s EV and automaking industries.
The Global Battery Race
The report recognises the ongoing global battery race, with the UK lagging behind countries like China, which currently dominates the battery market. Other countries in Europe and North America are also rapidly expanding their battery production capacity, raising concerns about the UK’s ability to compete in the global market.
The UK’s current battery production is insufficient to meet the domestic demand for EV batteries. The report suggests that the UK will require 100 gigawatt-hours (GWh) of battery manufacturing capacity by 2030, rising to 200 GWh by 2040. Currently, the UK only has one gigafactory, run by Envision AESC, with less than 2 GWh capacity. Several more are in the planning and construction stages, but these will only satisfy a little over half of the nation’s needs by 2030.
The Gigafactory Gap and Its Implications
The lack of gigafactories in the UK poses a substantial risk to the country’s automotive industry. Global original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) may prefer to move EV production to countries with larger local battery manufacturing capacities. This could lead to a gradual decline in UK automotive manufacturing, a sector that currently employs 160,000 people directly and many more indirectly.
Furthermore, the report highlights the strategic importance of gigafactories for the UK’s energy security, national security, and net-zero ambitions. Building a robust base of gigafactories in the UK could also unlock economic growth, create new jobs, and contribute to green industries.
Battery Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
Another crucial issue highlighted in the report is the vulnerability of the global battery supply chain. The UK’s reliance on battery supply chains, primarily based in China, creates a strategic vulnerability. The UK Government has, therefore, been urged by the Committee to collaborate internationally to diversify the battery supply chain, safeguard critical minerals for battery production, and ensure high environmental and social standards in battery production.
The government should, according to the report’s authors, also be charged with the responsibility to promote transparency in the battery industry and introduce regulations for battery passports, revealing how sustainably and ethically a battery has been constructed.
Encouraging Investment in the UK’s Battery Supply Chain
The report urges the UK Government to respond urgently to intensified global competition with a competitive package of long-term support to attract private investment into gigafactories and the wider battery supply chain.
The government is encouraged to provide a stable business environment that de-risks investments in the UK’s battery supply chain. This could include measures on subsidies, land access, low-cost power, skills development, de-risked supply chains, securing tariff-free access to partner markets, and investing in research and development support.
EU-UK Rules of Origin
The report also commented on the localisation of the EV supply chain in Europe. The UK Government and the European Commission are encouraged to extend the current rules of origin requirements beyond the January 1st deadline to allow more time for supply chains to develop. This extension would help avoid potential unintended consequences, such as a surge in cheaper EV imports from countries like China.
In conclusion, the Business and Trade Committee’s report underscores the urgent need for the UK to invest in its battery manufacturing capacity. Without substantial investment and strategic planning, the UK risks falling behind in the global battery race, potentially damaging its automotive industry and undermining its net-zero ambitions. The government’s response to the report’s recommendations in the coming months will be critical in shaping the future of the UK’s EV industry