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Jaguar electrification ‘very welcome, but big questions remain’

Joseph Flaig

The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. All new Jaguars will be electric from 2025 (Credit: JLR)
The all-electric Jaguar I-Pace. All new Jaguars will be electric from 2025 (Credit: JLR)

Jaguar’s shift to an all-electric brand from 2025 is “very welcome” but big questions remain about the necessary workforce, potential partners and car models, an automotive industry expert has said.

On Monday (15 February), Jaguar Land Rover (JLR) announced that all new Jaguars will be electric from 2025. The firm said it will also release six pure electric Land Rovers over the next five years, with an aim for 60% to be zero emission by 2030.

With a ‘net zero’ target for 2039, the company is also focusing on hydrogen fuel cells alongside batteries as hydrogen technology and the associated market matures. Development of a prototype is already underway, and is expected to be on UK roads for testing within the next 12 months.

“Overall this is a very welcome move by JLR to electrify, but remember that the firm is playing catch-up. The direction of travel is now clear but how it will meet this goal is still to be seen,” said automotive and manufacturing expert Professor David Bailey from Birmingham Business School.

“Indeed, big questions remain. What models will it make? How many cars will it aim to produce? How many workers will it need? And can the firm shift to an electric future on its own, or will it need a partner?”

Although JLR committed to keep its plant and assembly facilities in the UK and around the world, ‘streamlining’ will see it “substantially reduce” its non-manufacturing infrastructure in the UK.

“What is clear is that the firm is aiming to make fewer cars (‘quality rather than volume’) with less people,” said Prof Bailey. “That will mean job losses, but how many is not clear. Meanwhile the firm has dropped its previous goal of producing a million cars a year.”

He added: “To cut costs, the firm will go from using five platforms (the expensive bits that underpin cars) down to three.  But developing new platforms is an expensive business, especially in an electric age, and whether JLR can do this on its own, or will need to partner with another carmaker, is a big question going forward.

“The firm has mentioned partnering with others in the Tata Group which owns JLR, but don’t be surprised if the ongoing collaboration with BMW over electric motors and engines is pushed further.”

New platforms will receive investment in Solihull and Halewood, but mass production is set to end at JLR’s Castle Bromwich site after the firm cancelled plans to build the electric XJ saloon there. The plant’s paint shop and metal pressing facility make it a promising location for JLR’s high performance Special Vehicle Operations, said Bailey.

Mike Hawes, chief executive of the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), also said JLR’s long-term commitment to the UK is “very welcome” and described the news as an injection of confidence for the wider sector.

“Its roadmap to a future that is built around sustainability, with electrified and hydrogen models as well as investment in connected and digital technologies, aligns with government ambition and increasing consumer expectations,” he said.

“Delivering this ambition, however, will require the UK to improve its competitiveness. The UK automotive industry is essentially strong, innovative and agile, but the global competition is fierce.”

The government must give advanced manufacturing its full support, he said, “with a policy framework and plan for growth that reduces costs, accelerates domestic battery production and electrified supply chains, and incentivises R&D and skills development.”

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


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