The North East Could Lead UK in Electric Vehicle Battery Manufacturing

North East well placed to lead batteries charge but investment in skills required, say industry experts. This week sees the start of oral evidence in a parliamentary inquiry into what is holding UK electric vehicle production back.

The North East could become the UK centre for electric vehicle battery manufacturing but not before there is serious investment in skills.That’s the message from two of the region’s most influential figures in the automotive industry as the first session gets under way of a parliamentary inquiry into what is holding back electric vehicle battery production in the UK.

Supply chain bosses and sector experts will give evidence to MPs in the first oral sessions of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee’s inquiry in battery making capacity, which comes in the wake of Britishvolt’s demise and the massive, multibillion dollar US Inflation Reduction Act which is said to be causing companies to assess UK investment.

Professor Colin Herron of the North East Battery Alliance has submitted evidence to the inquiry in which he points to a lack of specialist skills in the region and the UK as a whole. He calls for more support of schemes such as the Emergent Skills Project, funded by the Gatsby Foundation and focussing on vehicle electrification, as well as the Newcastle University-led Institute of Electrification and Sustainable Advanced Manufacturing (IESAM), which will support training and skills development in the fields of power electronics, machines and drives.

Mr Herron said: “To build a full battery ecosystem we have to go beyond grants for factories. We require investment in areas such as skills to make sure the plants have the correct level of workforce, at the correct time, to ensure success.”

As well as overseas competition, MPs will also question witnesses about the security of raw materials access and expectations for future demand, as well as preparedness for imminent tightening rules of origin within the UK-EU trade deal which requires electric vehicle makers have no more than 40% of their battery components come from third nations in order to reduce reliance on Chinese imports.

Paul Butler, CEO of the North East Automotive Alliance, said the North East was in a strong position to lead home grown production. He said: “To support battery manufacturing in the UK we must secure the critical supply chain, particularly cathode, anode and electrolyte production, these are key targets for the UK Government and the Office for Investment.

“The North East really is the UK centre for battery manufacturing. We are home to the UK’s first gigafactory and to two further major battery investments with Envision AESC and Recharge Industries acquiring Britishvolt. We already have electrolyte production thanks to the Mitsubishi Chemicals facility in Billingham, and given our strengths in the chemicals sector, I believe the North East is the ideal place to locate cathode and anode production in the UK – we have the infrastructure, the skills and the battery manufacturers all located in the region.”

Labour MP Darren Jones, who chairs the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, announced the inquiry earlier this year. He said: “The future of car manufacturing in the UK is dependent on our ability to make electric vehicles, and to be able to export them into the EU. That means we need local supplies of electric vehicle batteries – something we’re falling significantly behind on compared to other parts of the world.”

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