'UK needs eight battery factories to meet EV demand'

6 May 2021

An inquiry into the supply chain for electric vehicle (EV) batteries has been launched in the UK, as car manufacturers ramp up plans for EV production.

The Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) will examine issues including government encouragement to battery manufacturers, ethical material sourcing, and investment in training, as part of the latest stage of its Technological Innovation and Climate Change inquiry.

According to the committee, the government’s plan to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030 means an estimated eight high-volume battery manufacturing plants will need to be operational by 2040 to meet demand for EVs. The UK’s first giga factory is planned for Blyth, Northumberland.

The committee said a supply chain focused on battery technology and the associated power electronics, machines and drives that will be required for a successful shift to EVs.

Failure to establish this supply chain, or a delay in growing it, could undermine any advantage the UK would have in this sector, the committee said. This would ultimately be reflected in fewer green jobs, reduced profits, and increased carbon emissions, potentially jeopardising the government’s net zero ambition.

As part of the inquiry the committee is seeking views on whether UK supply chain opportunities are clear, as well as what investment is needed to establish UK giga factories that meet net zero requirements.

It will ask for opinions on what action is needed to support growth of associated power electronics, machines and supply chain, including securing supply of raw materials and material processing.

The committee also wants to know if the £1bn of funding already announced to support EVs and their supply chains is sufficient, and how it should be split between supply chains and giga factories.

The inquiry will also look at production of lithium-ion batteries, currently the main battery technology used in electric vehicles. Plans to mine lithium in Cornwall have raised concerns about habitat destruction, pollution and water use. The necessity for mining could be reduced with effective reuse and recycling, the committee said.

EAC chair Philip Dunne said: “The government has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. But the road to meet this commitment could be rocky, with challenges in manufacturing capacity, a skilled workforce and extraction of critical components.”

Meanwhile, BMW and Ford are collaborating on battery production, while General Motors and LG Energy Solution have announced a new manufacturing plant in Tennessee in the US.

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