JLR and UK government announce national EV battery hub plans

01 June 2017

JLR and UK government announce national EV battery hub plans

01 June 2017

As part of the UK’s ambitions to become a leading hub for the development of electric vehicles (EVs), Britain’s biggest carmaker Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) and the UK government have announced plans for the establishment of the core UK hub for EV battery production and development. 

Joined by academics and business leaders for the announcement on Tuesday, the central UK players aim to create the National Battery Prototyping Centre (NBPC) in Coventry, which will become the home for EV development and testing in the UK. 

UK automotive aims for the national test centre acting as a catapult for large-scale battery production at the historic centre of the UK auto industry. The city of Coventry is already home to the main London Taxi Company EV factory and major JLR research facilities at Warwick University. It also forms part of the key connected and autonomous vehicle (CAV) cluster in the country, which stretches from Birmingham and Oxford to London. 

JLR CEO Ralf Speth said the founding of the national battery centre would help JLR to commit to building electric vehicles in the UK, as is wishes to do. Its all-electric I-PACE SUV, which is set to beat rivals to market launching in 2018, will be made in Austria, and JLR has also gone overseas to Slovakia for a new production plant for its conventional vehicles. Speth says that in order for it to springboard major production in the UK, it requires considerable improvements to UK-based capabilities, including in pilot testing, support from science (often through universities) and in the UK’s energy supply (with UK energy being some of the most expensive in the world). At least in the first two areas, the UK government now looks set to deliver. 

The UK automotive industry would like to see more local options to further strengthen the UK’s manufacturing capability, including more locally-based suppliers, as consumer demand for EVs is forecast to rapidly increase, boosted further by strict air quality targets coming from central government and from city regions. 

The move will also be welcomed by European officials worried about Europe’s key auto industry becoming dependent on Asia for battery development and production. It also helps build further options for OEMs in addition to Daimler’s new gigafactory near Berlin in the European supply chain, and with German-owned companies such as BMW and Bentley operating in the UK, could assuage German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s concerns over a lack of German OEM direct access to battery tech capability. 

The NBPC hub proposals are being organised by the leading Warwick Manufacturing Group, which works alongside UK manufacturers and is based at Warwick University. It will apply for funding for new technologies recently announced by the UK’s Conservative government. A decision on these grant proposals is expected to be made soon after the UK 8 June general election. 

Regardless of election results, resounding widespread support for the Coventry hub makes it look near-certain to go forward. 

UK business minister Greg Clark, who attended the event, said: ‘The enthusiasm of everyone in the room, including JLR, to establish Coventry and the West Midlands as a test bed and place of innovation in battery storage is very evident and there’s huge commitment to that [from all sides].’

Photograph courtesy of JLR