Unite welcomes Coventry Gigafactory plans

Coventry Council and Regional City Airports team up in joint venture to create new gigafactory to start production in 2025

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Unite has welcomed plans by Coventry City Council and Regional City Airports to create an electric car battery factory, also known as a gigafactory, at Coventry airport.

Coventry Council and Regional City Airports have teamed up in a joint venture to seek planning permission for the gigafactory by the end of 2021. The joint venture seeks to attract a manufacturer for the site so that production can begin by 2025.

Coventry Council said that it expects the future gigafactory to bring £2bn in investment in the region and create thousands of highly skilled jobs.

The latest announcement follows news in December that startup Britishvolt would be investing £2.6bn in a future gigafactory in Wansbeck, Northumberland. Britishvolt has secured rights to the site in Blyth, not far from Sunderland, where the Nissan car plant is located.

Although Britishvolt has not yet secured funding for its site, it is expected to be the UK’s first gigafactory, to be operational by 2023, with the Coventry gigafactory to follow by 2025.

The urgent need for gigafactories in the UK was highlighted by news this week from car manufacturer JLR, which announced a new Reimagine strategy where the firm plans to be be an all-electric luxury brand by 2025. JLR operates one of its car plants in Coventry.

Commenting on news of the Coventry gigafactory, Coventry City Council leader George Duggins 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.”

JLR also hailed the news, with JLR chief executive Thierry Bolloré telling the Guardian, “If there might be one day a battery plant or several plants, why not in the UK? We would be very, very glad. It would make a lot of sense in terms of supply chain to be close by any battery plant.”

Unite likewise welcomed the news.

“Unite welcomes Coventry City Council’s decision to take the initiative and partner in a strategic alliance with Regional City Airports to ensure the UK’s first Gigafactory lands in the West Midlands,” said Unite assistant general secretary Steve Turner.

“Creating thousands of skilled well-paid jobs, this factory would be the first of seven battery plants required across the UK to support the transition of automotive – the jewel in the crown of our manufacturing sector – from the combustion engine to full electric vehicles,” he added.

“Government must now step up to provide direct support and investment of its own, taking a stake in this exciting development. It must also ensure that an integrated strategy – one that takes in energy supply, infrastructure and the manufacture of associated cathodes, anodes and cells – is in place.

“This opportunity to bring together the very best of West Midlands manufacturers and suppliers with the world’s leading battery manufacturers cannot be missed,” Turner continued. “Nor can its importance be overstated to the future of the sector.

“This project is crucial to thousands of jobs, local communities and the national economy, as we recover and rebuild from Covid and tackle the climate emergency head on.”

By Hajera Blagg

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