UK automotive wins big with Tata battery factory – but what's next?


Tata’s UK battery factory will supply Jaguar Land Rover EVs

Jaguar Land Rover and Somerset residents are beneficiaries of Tata announcement, but long-term impact remains to be seen

There are several winners of today’s news that Tata Sons will build a 40GWh battery plant in Somerset, south-west England. The first are, obviously, Tata and its battery company, Agratas, who have reportedly landed themselves hundreds of millions of pounds in government subsidies to support their £4 billion investment.

JLR owner to build £4bn battery factory in UK by 2026

The second are the residents of Somerset and environs, who will be among the pool of candidates for a claimed 4000 jobs at the plant itself. 

The third, of course, is Jaguar Land Rover, which has secured supply of precious batteries for the company’s shift to electrification, which starts in earnest from next year with the launch of the electric Range Rover. Being able to source from a battery firm owned by your parent company with its own intellectual property on cell chemistry is a huge plus, assuming that chemistry is cutting edge.

Do we count the UK automotive industry as a winner? In one respect, absolutely it is. Doubling the UK’s battery capacity following the planned investment of Nissan supplier Envision AESC at the new Sunderland battery gigafactory better locates the battery supply chain here, helping to attract further upstream investment such as raw material refining as well as boosting cell development.

As to whether UK automotive is a long-term winner depends on the government’s next steps. Does this fire the gun on an industrial policy that prioritises automotive and recognises that in today’s protectionist environment you need to spend big to attract? Or has the government overspent on this one big bet to lure Tata/Agratas away from Spain, meaning the chequebook will now be locked away? 

In reality, it is impractical to think that the government will be able to spend hundreds of millions on taxpayer money on every new automotive production facility angling for cash. But what it can do is address the problems that caused it to have to write such a large cheque in the first place: reduce high electricity bills (a big issue in energy-intensive battery manufacturing), put in place a long-term training strategy and mend bridges with our closest trading partner, the European Union.  

Source: Autocar

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