UK electric car industry needs string of ‘gigafactories’, says SMMT

A series of “gigafactories” producing electric car batteries must be built in the UK to secure the future of the country’s automotive industry, according to a new report by the sector’s trade body.

The government should announce a “binding target” of 60 gigawatt hours (60GWh) of battery annual production capacity to be in place by 2030, the study commissioned by the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) said.

This is one of a number of policy proposals put forward by the SMMT, which it said could create 40,000 new, well-paid and high-skilled UK auto industry jobs and boost economic prospects in the north-east and West Midlands, as part a successful transition to a zero-emissions future combined with “ambitious global trading terms”.

However, the SMMT also warned that if the government fails to increase support for the switch to electric car production to match the levels in the US and Germany, 90,000 UK jobs could be lost.

The proposed gigafactories would give UK manufacturers the capability to build up to 1m electric cars a year and ensure tariff-free access to “critical” markets in the EU, the SMMT plan claimed.

Nissan is expected to confirm plans this week for a 6GWh factory to be built in Sunderland, with capacity to make up to 200,000 electric vehicles batteries a year.

The SMMT-commissioned study, written by policy and research company Public First, also called for the installation of at least 2.3m charging points nationwide before the end of the decade.

This is aimed at giving confidence to drivers – particularly those with no off-road parking at home – to invest in zero-emission vehicles.

The report urged the government to launch a “build back better fund” to support the transformation of the car industry.

The SMMT chief executive, Mike Hawes, speaking at its annual summit, said: “The next few years represent a critical period for the sector.

“The pace of technological change is accelerating and the competition more ferocious.

“If we are to secure vehicle manufacturing in this country, with all the benefits to society that it brings, decisions need to be made today.

“The automotive sector is uniquely placed to help this government deliver on its agenda: to level up, deliver net zero and trade globally.

“The government has made clear its support for the sector in its negotiations with Europe, so now is the time to go full throttle and take bold action to support one of Britain’s most important industries.”

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