The recent news that Nissan is building a huge gigafactory to supercharge the production of its electric cars was hailed by the prime minister Boris Johnson as a ‘major vote of confidence in the UK’. Coming as it does hot on the heels of the Japanese car giant’s earlier commitment to its Sunderland base (which would have been in doubt in the event of a no-deal Brexit), it is indeed great news for UK manufacturing as a whole – and car manufacturing in particular.

Battery production is key to long-term car manufacturing success

As we reported in a blog earlier this year, the production of batteries for electric vehicles is critical for the future health of UK car manufacturing, not least because it will provide a much-needed boost to the economy. Nissan estimate that the new £1bn plant, which will be built in partnership with Chinese manufacturer Envision, will create 900 jobs at Nissan and a further 750 at Envision. However, even more significantly it is thought that the eventual effect on suppliers when the facility to produce batteries for up to 1000,000 vehicles a year is up and running, will create 6,200 new jobs overall.

A boost to exports

Although the post Brexit climate for the motor industry is brighter than many had feared when the UK seemed to be on the verge of a no-deal outcome, the tariff-free trade deal comes with caveats. One of the most important of these is that from 2027, car exports to the EU will only be tariff-free if the batteries are produced in the UK or the EU.

With most car batteries currently sourced from South East Asia and UK battery production falling well short of competitors in France and Germany, a lack of UK-made batteries could have become a serious issue if no car manufacturing giants were willing to invest in this new technology in the UK.

The road to a green motoring future

Another great benefit of the new plant is the contribution it will make to the motor manufacturing industry’s race to meet the government’s ambitious targets of eliminating all petrol and diesel engines by 2030. And excitingly, Nissan is committing £432 million to the production of a brand-new electric vehicle following the success of the Leaf EV model which is also produced in Sunderland.

What else is being done to increase battery and EV production in the UK?

As well as the Nissan plant, Britishvolt plans to repurpose the former Blyth power station in Northumberland in a project that aims to create 3,000 jobs producing batteries for up to 300,000 vehicles a year.

Again, this is great news, not just for the UK economy and the 2030 targets, but because the more batteries that are produced in the UK, the more the motor industry can cut down on the financial and environmental costs of importing batteries from thousands of miles away.

When it comes to upping production of electric vehicles, the business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng is talking to Vauxhall’s owner Stellantis about the possibility of the company manufacturing EV vehicles at its Ellesmere Port plant when production of the Vauxhall Astra ends.

Innovative solutions for the vehicles of the future

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