'The clock is ticking': Region in danger of missing out on gigafactory, MP says

The West Midlands is in danger of missing out on a gigafactory that would see it become the "epicentre" of the UK's electric vehicles industry, an MP has said.

The gigafactory is planned for Coventry Airport and could be up and running by 2025
The gigafactory is planned for Coventry Airport and could be up and running by 2025

Liam Byrne said it was "disappointing" that the Government did not use the Budget to sign off on plans for a gigafactory in the region, which would build batteries for electric cars.

He said the race to build gigafactories in Europe meant there was a growing risk of the region missing out altogether unless a scheme got off the ground in the next 18 months.

And the Birmingham MP called for a deal to be struck between Jaguar Land Rover and major battery manufacturers to move the project along.

Land at Coventry Airport has been earmarked as a potential gigafactory site, with Ministers pledging £500m for the project once private sector investment has been secured.

Mr Byrne, Labour's candidate for West Midlands Mayor, said the scheme was "crucial" to the West Midlands becoming the "epicentre" of the country's electric vehicles industry.

He said: "What we need to do, is to get Jaguar Land Rover in a room with the world's biggest battery makers, like Tesla and BASF, and don't let them out until they have agreed a deal between them as to who is going to be the strategic supplier.

"And then you write a cheque from the fund that you have put aside – the Government has put aside £500 million for a gigafactory – and say 'right, here's the government investment, let's go and break ground."

Future

Mr Byrne said there was a danger that the deadline could be missed for changes to rules of origin, which would mean extra costs on products coming into to the UK.

"Because the rules of origin change quite soon we need to build batteries here," he added. "Gigafactories take five years to build, so we could miss the deadline for when the rules of origin change.

"The clock is ticking and we could miss out completely. They are building 16 of these in Europe. The French and Germans are putting 1.75 billion euros into building gigafactories because they know that the automotive production of the future moves to where the battery park is, not vice versa."

Reflecting on the Budget, which did not feature an update on the region's gigafactory bid, Mr Byrne added: "If we don't get shovels in the ground in the next 18 months we'll have missed the window, which is why it was so disappointing not to hear anything after Coventry worked so hard with the rest of the region to put together Coventry Airport.

"We were expecting a green light on the money from government and we didn't get it."

West Midlands Mayor Andy Street, who has campaigned to bring a gigafactory to the region for years, said the search for a private sector investment for the site was underway.

He said the gigafactory would create thousands of green supply chain jobs and attract up to £2 billion of investment.

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