Plans for Gigafactory at Coventry Airport take off with ‘game-changing’ partnership

FULL STORY & VIDEO: A partnership of 19 vehicle manufacturers, local authorities, universities, colleges and industry research bodies is to develop proposals for a Gigafactory which could be operational by 2025.

The public-private partnership represents a game-changing initiative in the UK’s pursuit of a Gigafactory, and further strengthens the West Midlands’ attraction for battery suppliers.

The Government is actively pursuing investment in a UK Gigafactory and has made up to £500m funding available, which the West Midlands will be bidding for in due course.

A Gigafactory is a large-scale battery-manufacturing plant, primarily producing rechargeable batteries for road vehicles.

The partnership says the factory – to be located at Coventry Airport – could create 4,000 jobs, and submit an outline planning application for a Gigafactory at the airport in 2021.

A planning application will be submitted in 2021 and, subject to successful discussions with car makers and battery suppliers, a Gigafactory at Coventry Airport could be operational by 2025.

This will take place alongside regional discussions with battery suppliers and automotive manufacturers to secure the long-term investment needed.

The West Midlands is the beating heart of the UK automotive sector, and home to a powerful automotive cluster with an advanced automotive skills ecosystem, representing 28% of the UK’s automotive talent

The council and the airport say the move will improve the attractiveness of the West Midlands as a destination for investment, while reducing the time needed for a Gigafactory to become operational.

The West Midlands is already the heart of the UK automotive sector, and home to several automotive manufacturers, including Jaguar Land Rover, Aston Martin Lagonda, BMW, LEVC and others.

Securing a Gigafactory in the West Midlands has been identified as vital for the continued success of the automotive industry, creating thousands of green jobs, attracting up to £2bn of investment, and supporting the drive for Net Zero.

The West Midlands Combined Authority has formally endorsed Coventry Airport as the preferred site for a Gigafactory.

The airport site could accommodate up to 4.5m sq ft of commercial space, making use of the large areas of hard standing and existing development.

On site at Coventry airport (l-r): Andrew Day (Leader, Warwick DC), Cllr George Duggins (Leader, Coventry CC), Margot James (Executive Chair, WMG), Andy Street (Mayor of the West Midlands), Nick Abell (Chair, CWLEP)

Cllr George Duggins, leader of Coventry City Council, said: “Coventry has emerged as a world leader in battery technology. The city is home to the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre, world-leading research institutions, and the UK’s largest car maker Jaguar Land Rover and it’s clear to me that Coventry is the right location.

“Coventry Airport sits at the heart of this powerful automotive research cluster and is the obvious location for a UK Gigafactory. It will immediately plug in to a mature automotive supply chain and skills eco-system. The green industrial revolution is coming, and I will continue to work tirelessly to ensure that Coventry is right at the heart of it. We have the site, the skills and the pedigree to make this work.

“Our Joint Venture partnership is unique in the UK and creates a strong platform to attract investment and deliver more than 4,000 new jobs, support our automotive sector, and secure our competitive advantage.”

Andy Street, the Mayor of the West Midlands, said: “I have been utterly obsessed with securing a Gigafactory for the West Midlands due to the huge economic and job benefits it would bring, and so I am delighted we have announced our preferred site and taken a huge leap forward today.

“The point I have been ferociously lobbying to Government is that the West Midlands is the natural place for a UK Gigafactory as we are already home to the country’s biggest car manufacturer, Europe’s largest research centre, the UK’s only battery industrialisation centre, and a world-leading supply chain.

“By announcing the site now and driving forward with a planning application and a joint venture, we are showing how united and serious the region is about making this happen.

“The next step is to submit the case to Government to win the funding required, and discussions are already well underway with the UK’s leading car makers and battery suppliers across the globe to put together the strongest bid possible. I will not rest until the West Midlands has the Gigafactory it needs.”

Andrew Bell, CEO of Regional City Airports who own and manage Coventry Airport, said: “Coventry City Council and the West Midlands Combined Authority have together identified Coventry Airport as the preferred site for a Gigafactory. Coventry Airport Ltd has been working to deliver the best possible outcome for the region and are ready to back the West Midlands through a Joint Venture with Coventry City Council.

“We recognise what a significant opportunity this is and are backing the project with investment alongside our public sector partners. This is a ground-breaking initiative, and we are excited to be a part of it.”

What is a Gigafactory?

A Gigafactory is vital to the future of automotive production. Such facilities produce and manufacture the latest battery technology, particularly for electric vehicles.

Such factories have already been developed in other parts of the world – for example, by Tesla in the USA and near Berlin, Germany – but there is currently no Gigafactory in the UK.

The transfer to electric vehicles is happening now, driven by Government policy to phase out petrol and diesel engines by 2040 and reach Net Zero by 2050.

This is both an existential threat to the UK’s automotive sector, and a once in a generation opportunity to take a global lead in automotive technology.

According to the Faraday Institution, a leading national independent research institute, without a UK Gigafactory to produce batteries and support wider electric vehicle manufacturing, direct automotive employment is 105,000 jobs fewer in 2040 than it otherwise would be.

Alternatively, by investing in battery manufacturing – including a Gigafactory – in the UK, the overall workforce within automotive and battery technology is expected to grow by 29% by 2040.

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