JaguarLandRover (JLR) is hoping to take advantage of a UK government pledge to put battery development and electric vehicles at the heart of its industrial strategy.
The company is hoping UK government will invest £450 million in the UK’s West Midlands infrastructure, saying it could create 10,000 jobs and build electric cars in the region in return.
Dr. Ralf Speth, chief executive of JLR, said the UK faced strong competition from other countries in its drive to become a world leader in electric cars.
“The German government wants to be ahead in this [electric technology]. We are in a race. Either we win or we lose,” said Dr. Speth.
According to London-based Financial Times Dr. Speth told a meeting of political and automotive leaders from the UK’s West Midlands on the evening of 24 November that JLR’s planned West Midlands expansion would require “big improvements” in local infrastructure, including additional electricity power generation.
JLR would also require additional land for development and “the right legislative framework”, Dr Speth added.
JLR would require a further £600 million of private investment, according to a planning document seen by the Financial Times.
Greg Clark, the UK government’s business secretary, was at the meeting and said the British government “couldn’t be more aligned” with the car group in its ambitions for electric vehicles.
“The development of electric cars would be “one of the big features of the world, and of Britain’s industrial policy, during the weeks and months and years ahead”, Clark added.
This week the government pledged an additional £2 billion a year by 2020 to fund research and development, while Philip Hammond, the chancellor, announced an £80 million boost for electric charging points in his Autumn Statement.
JLR confirmed it intended to create 10,000 jobs as part of the planned expansion in the Midlands. Martin Yardley, chief executive of the Coventry and Warwickshire Local Enterprise Partnership, said the first stage of the expansion could potentially create as many as 100,000 more jobs in the supply chain.
JLR’s plans include building test centres and research facilities on a 60-acre site close to its Coventry headquarters. This could provide much additional business for the likes of Horiba, already a JLR main test equipment supplier.
In the longer term, JLR’s more ambitious goal is to build a battery manufacturing plant on a new site that could eventually extend to production lines for electric vehicles.
Dr Speth said JLR, which will manufacture its first electric car — the Jaguar I-Pace — in Austria using third-party group Magna International Inc., wanted to make other electric models in Britain.
Magna International Inc. is a Canadian global automotive supplier headquartered in Aurora, Ontario, Canada. In 2014 it was the largest automotive component suppliers in North America by sales of original equipment parts, and one of Canada's largest companies. Its operating groups include Magna Steyr, Magna Powertrain, Magna Exteriors, Magna Seating, Magna Closures, Magna Mirrors, Magna Electronics and Cosma International.
It may be recalled that Aston Martin Lagonda contracted Magna to build its Rapide in Graz, Austria, a programme which later, due to lower-than-expected sales, required Aston Martin to bring the work back inside.
“We want to build our EVs [electric vehicles] in the West Midlands, in the home of our design and engineering,” he said. “This is why we must bring battery R&D and production to the UK.”
Britain’s largest carmaker is late to join the fast-developing electric vehicle market, where industry upstart Tesla is threatening the position of established carmakers, including JLR. Indeed, is the Tesla Model X the car benchmark that JLR has in its sights?
However, JLR believes that its new I-Pace will enable it to compete effectively against core rivals such as Audi and Mercedes-Benz.
Although the batteries for the I-Pace are under development in the UK by JLR and Warwick Manufacturing Group (WMG), part of the University of Warwick, they will be manufactured in Austria — close to vehicle production.
Dr Speth highlighted the importance of focusing not just on existing battery technology dominated by lithium ion but also on alternative sources in which Britain could take a lead.
Warwick Manufacturing Group, founded by Professor Kumar Bhattacharyya in the 1980s, has developed lithium ion batteries that are said have an 80 per cent higher energy density than models presently on the market. On the same site is TMETC – Tata Motors European Technical Centre.
JLR will begin selling I-Pace in 2018 and has said it expects 40 per cent of its car range to have an electric option by 2020.
The Coventry area is a hub for much of the UK automotive industry, including JLR plants, the London Taxi Company and BMW engines, as well as operations for 1,500 car industry suppliers.
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