05 Mar 2024

TATA to open UK Gigafactory

Will a £4 billion investment in the UK to build a Gigafactory help further push forward the move to EVs?

Tata Group is to open its first Gigafactory outside India, it was announced in July, creating 4,000 jobs in the process. The site will provide nearly half of the EV battery production needed in the UK by 2030.

A JLR site in Bridgewater, Somerset has been earmarked as the likely location of the new facility. Via a £4 billion investment, the new Gigafactory will supply JLR’s future battery electric models including the Range Rover, Defender and Discovery, as well as Jaguar models, with the potential to also supply other carmakers. Production is set to start in 2026.

Sustainable future
Mr N Chandrasekaran, Chairman, Tata Sons, said: “The Tata Group is deeply committed to a sustainable future across our business. I am delighted to announce the Tata Group will be setting up one of Europe’s largest battery cell manufacturing facilities in the UK. Our multi-billion-pound investment will bring state-of-the-art technology to the country, helping to power the automotive sector’s transition to electric mobility, anchored by our own business, JLR. With this strategic investment, the Tata Group further strengthens its commitment to the UK, alongside our many companies operating here across technology, consumer, hospitality, steel, chemicals, and automotive. I also want to thank His Majesty’s Government, which has worked so closely with us to enable this investment.”

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said: “Tata Group’s multi-billion-pound investment in a new battery factory in the UK is testament to the strength of our car manufacturing industry and its skilled workers. With the global transition to zero emission vehicles well underway, this will help grow our economy by driving forward our lead in battery technology whilst creating as many as 4,000 jobs, and thousands more in the supply chain.”

Critical moment
SMMT Chief Executive Mike Hawes observed: “This is a shot in the arm for the UK automotive industry, our economy and British manufacturing jobs, demonstrating the country is open for business and electric vehicle production. It comes at a critical moment, with the global industry transitioning at pace to electrification, producing batteries in the UK is essential if we are to anchor wider vehicle production here for the long term. We must now build on this announcement by promoting the UK’s strengths overseas, ensuring we stay competitive amid fierce global pressures and do more to scale up our EV supply chain.”

Ben Nelmes, Chief Executive of independent transport research organisation New AutoMotive observed: “This is a welcome vote of confidence in the UK’s plans to transition to electric vehicles. Ambitious climate policies such as ministers’ plans for a zero-emission vehicle mandate should make the UK a more inviting investment opportunity and help to further reduce the cost of electric cars and vans for motorists and businesses. The government should build on this success and bring forward a strategy for battery manufacturing so that Britain can benefit from new green technologies.”

Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) CEO Ian Constance said: “The UK offers an extremely competitive landscape for investment in the full research, development, and manufacturing ecosystem for electric vehicle technologies and this has been recognised by Tata. Their commitment to this Gigafactory development has already had a transformative impact in awakening the battery supply chain sector to opportunities in the UK. Our insight, based on our unique relationships with vehicle manufacturers, shows that by 2030 the UK will need over 89GWh per annum of batteries for cars and light commercials alone and represents over 11% of the total demand across Europe. 

“We have a vibrant and diverse industry, and Tata’s significant investment through JLR in R&D and manufacturing will help establish competitive supply chains and satisfy this burgeoning demand – and in doing so will create thousands of highly-skilled, green jobs.

Today marks a significant milestone for the UK, as the batteries produced by Tata will not only work towards fulfilling the UK demand for electric vehicle production but will also boost businesses involved in the UK EV supply chain, meaning the impacts will be far reaching.

“This announcement is a major step in putting the UK at the forefront of the global energy transition, unlocking huge private sector investment that will develop the technology and skills required for Britain to play its part in the next industrial revolution. It demonstrates the UK’s competitive position for high technology manufacturing and chemicals processing industries and given the energy-intensity of these new industries, recent Policy support and the rapid decarbonisation of our power generation places the UK in a very competitive position.”

He added: This not only shortens supply chains but also allows for sustainable battery production. This is a truly historic day and a pivotal moment as we move towards a zero-carbon future.”

Economic pressures
While the investment in manufacturing is more than welcome as far as IMI CEO Steve Nash is concerned, the news highlights the need for accelerated training further down the chain: “There is no question that this is great news for the UK economy, with the prospect of thousands of jobs. For the UK to become a centre of excellence in the electric battery field is crucial for future decarbonisation ambitions.

“Such a sign of intent from the UK government to support the Tata decision is encouraging for the whole automotive sector. What we now need is for that intent to filter down to the aftermarket too.”

According to IMI data, the EV skills gap continues to blight the sector, with a potential 16,000 shortfall of qualified technicians by 2032. Over 14,800 dedicated technicians undertook the training and qualifications required to obtain IMI TechSafe professional recognition in 2022, boosting the total number of qualified technicians able to safely work on electric vehicles in the UK to 39,000. The IMI’s latest analysis predicts that by 2030, 107,000 IMI TechSafe qualified technicians will be needed to work with electric vehicles, increasing to 139,000 by 2032.
Steve added: “Economic pressures are putting a squeeze on training budgets for new EV technicians and for those who are already IMI TechSafe qualified who will need CPD to keep up with technological advancements.”
He concluded: “Coupled with the high employment churn, this is putting more pressure on the sector. If the government does not step up soon with training support, EV trained technicians will not be available. We sincerely hope that the commitment shown in supporting the Tata decision is matched by a commitment to aftermarket training. Otherwise the government risks scoring an embarrassing own-goal on its decarbonisation target.”