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Could £108m facility lay foundations for UK’s own battery gigafactory?

Professional Engineering

A concept image of a Tesla Gigafactory (Credit: Tesla)
A concept image of a Tesla Gigafactory (Credit: Tesla)

A new ‘world-class’ testing centre for future battery technologies is a “stepping-stone” towards the UK’s very own 'gigafactory', the government has claimed.

Coined by Elon Musk’s Tesla electric vehicle and energy company, gigafactory refers to a battery technology factory on a huge scale. The company’s first gigafactory in Reno, Nevada, covers 1.9m square feet (177,000m2) although it has previously voiced ambitions to cover 5.8m (539,000m2) square feet – making it the biggest building in the world.

By contrast, the UK Battery Industrialisation Centre has a planned footprint of 193,750 square feet (18,000m2). Rather than building batteries, however, the Coventry facility will provide testing for new battery technologies and training for people to work in battery manufacturing.

A £28m investment announced today comes on top of an initial £80m. The government hopes to secure the UK – and the West Midlands in particular – as a global leader in electric vehicle technology as countries around the world set timescales for the end of new diesel and petrol cars.

Manufacturers are expected to increasingly look beyond lithium-ion batteries for more sustainable and higher storage options.

“Driven by the potential of fast-paced development of battery technology, this investment puts the UK – amongst a handful of countries around the world – on the next step to meet the challenge by the future of mobility,” said business and industry minister Andrew Stephenson.

“Our investment of £28m in this new facility will support the UK’s world-leading automotive industry to compete internationally, attract further investment and establish supply chains for new electric vehicle battery design and development.”

The centre “will give the city and the region a huge boost in the race to lead the world in the production of electric vehicles, which is an increasingly important market as we look to tackle air pollution and climate change,” said Andy Street, mayor of the West Midlands.

The government also launched a local Industrial Strategy, focusing on autonomous vehicles, electric vehicle manufacturing, 5G testing, artificial intelligence and more.

Content published by Professional Engineering does not necessarily represent the views of the Institution of Mechanical Engineers.

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