The UK used to have a thriving electric milk float industry

The Week in Mobility — 2 July 2021

This week Nissan confirmed it will build a £1bn Gigafactory at its Sunderland plant in the UK and invest £432 million in a new generation all electric vehicle. The plant, which is already home to the Nissan Leaf, will expand its capacity to 9GWh per year — enough to make batteries for 100,000 vehicles. When all things are considered this investment and expansion is expected to generate 6,200 jobs throughout the supply chain.

In 2019, the UK manufactured 1.3 million cars, 78,270 commercial vehicles and 2.5 million engines, employing 180,00 people directly and 864,000 in the broader automotive industry. We are 8.5 years away from 2030 Internal Combustion Engine bans and yet, of the 70 different vehicle models currently being made in the UK, less than 10% of them are electric.

This is clearly anxiety-inducing from an environmental, logistics and jobs perspective. The Faraday Institute estimates that without serious investment in gigafactories, the UK is set to lose 100,000 direct jobs. However, more pressing are the implications of ‘rules-of-origin’ requirements set out in the Brexit deal. The agreement means that by 2027 vehicles with batteries produced outside the UK or the European Union will attract tariffs when exported to EU states — which accounts for 55% of the UK’s total vehicle production.

8.5 years suddenly becomes 5.5 years and if you account for general faffing and speculative flimflam we probably have about 4 years to build at least ten times more battery capacity — generating an additional 50,000 direct jobs by 2040. For European vehicle marques, there needs to be a very compelling reason for them to retain, or move manufacturing operations to the UK. Europe expects to have 450Gwh of battery capacity in 38 facilities by 2030 and at this precise moment in time, the UK has 1.7 Gwh.

Stellantis is currently stalling on a decision to manufacture the electric Astra in its Ellesmere Port facility, where it has been making the ICE variant since 1991. It is hoped that if Ellesmere doesn’t make the Astra, it may turn its hand to Stellantis’ electric van production instead. I suspect for the 1,100 people employed at the plant, the indecision and uncertainty for their jobs has been unimaginably unsettling.

Given the gravity of the situation, it’s surprising to me that Nissan was criticised for conversations regarding government financial support for their Gigafactory. ‘Why take tax payers money for a project you were doing anyway?’ being a common opening gambit. My dad has kindly offered a contribution to our wedding, whether he offered or not, definitely didn’t determine whether we’d get married, but it certainly makes each invoice slightly more palatable.

The UK Government is reportedly exploring a further seven gigafactory sites including Coventry Airport. The joint venture between Coventry City Council and Coventry Airport would create 4,000 direct jobs, 10,000 more in the supply chain and would likely receive £100 million in state support.

If the Government invested £100 million in each of the eight rumoured gigafactories, that would amount to roughly £3,400 per person who would be directly employed by the electric vehicle industry and £800 per person in the wider value chain. If the economic impact of improving air quality is thrown into the mix too, in wedding terms that’s the equivalent of my dad paying for the canapes and frankly, I’d like him to cover the wine

Elsewhere in the industry

  • Sandvik receives electric mining vehicle order from Canada — electrive
  • Citroen Ami may come to the UK — Autocar — including the logistics version — electrive
  • Gridserve is adding 50 fast chargers to motorway services in the UK — This is Money
  • Levistor receives a £545,000 grant to commercialise its Flywheel Energy Storage System for ultra-fast charging — Renewable Energy Magazine
  • A company is putting face-tracking Ad tablets in the back of Ubers — VICE
  • Bots manage HR, including firing, for Amazon Flex Workers — arstechnica
  • Volvo will focus on range and fast charging for its next generation vehicles — Volvo
  • The DfT is seeking designers to make charge points as iconic as telephone boxes — DesignWeek
  • GM and Shell are offering customers renewable energy plans that include free overnight charging — GM
  • This flying car completed a test flight between two airports — BBC News
  • VW is considering buying a majority stake in Europcar — Reuters
  • Rivian shows off its integrated kitchen — Rivian
  • LEVC revealed its camper concept — Autoweek
  • Cabana, the camper on demand service, raised $10 millon — Skift
  • NYC blocks Revel’s Tesla Taxi license — The Verge

Miscellaneous

Hyundai Motor Group celebrated the acquisition of Boston Dynamics with a collaboration with K-Pop sensation BTS. The company have revealed a video of the infamous Spot Robots dancing to BTS’ 2020 song “IONIQ: I’m on it”. Enjoy..

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Fully Charged, ex-Arrival Ltd —Sustainability, Mobility, Tech, Books and anything in between

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Imogen Pierce

Imogen Pierce

Fully Charged, ex-Arrival Ltd —Sustainability, Mobility, Tech, Books and anything in between

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