UK earmarks £1bn to attract EV battery gigafactory and kick start lithium ion economy

The UK Government has ramped up its efforts to attract a lithium ion battery megafactory / gigafactory in a bid to build a new domestic lithium ion economy with £1bn of funding to kick start the initiative.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson today outlined a UK economic recovery plan, in an FDR New Deal-inspired speech, which put lithium ion batteries and the supply chains that feed them at the centre of its coronavirus / Covid recovery plan.

The UK Government stated:

“We are making additional funding available this year to attract investment in ‘gigafactories’, which mass-produce batteries and other electric vehicle components, enabling the UK to lead on the next generation of automotive technologies”.

Alok Sharma, Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy said:

“Building on our historic strength in the automotive sector, we are moving towards building the UK’s first Gigafactory. This is alongside our existing £1bn investment in world-leading research for batteries and electric vehicles,”

UK’s New Deal echoes Benchmark Senate Testimony

Prime Minister Johnson’s continued reference to FDR’s New Deal echoed the testimony of Benchmark’s MD, Simon Moores, to the US Senate last week, as outlined in this excerpt from Metal Tech News:

“Reminiscent of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal to pull the U.S. out of the Great Depression, the global lithium-ion battery expert’s idea is to build the infrastructure America needs as it continues into the 21st century.

‘Instead of dams, you need to build battery megafactories in their multiples. Instead of highways, bridges and tunnels, you need to build the supply chains to enable these megafactories to operate securely and consistently,” he said. “These include the cathode and anode plants, and the lithium, cobalt, graphite, nickel and manganese sources to feed them.’

Moores is not suggesting minor incentives to gradually build out domestic battery infrastructure, telling the senators that this investment in the lithium-ion supply chain “has to be done at a speed, scale, and quality that will make most of U.S. corporations uncomfortable.”

Benchmark sees need for at least four gigfactories in next 7 years

Benchmark has always stated the need for UK lithium ion battery cell capacity to expand on the 1.9GWh it has in Sunderland for the Nissan LEAF – the world’s first purpose-built EV battery megafactory outside of China.

The country needs to replicate this strategy on a scale that is an order of magnitude bigger than this and believes a target of 200GWh by 2027, in two 100GWh phases is the right approach.

Tesla and Panasonic’s Gigafactory in Nevada, USA, is the world’s largest lithium ion battery cell plant with a 37GWh capacity.

The next wave of battery megafactories are expected to be designed for a 70GWh capacity.

The world is building 142 of these battery megafactories worldwide, with an average capacity of 18 GWh per facility. Today, 109 of these facilities are in China.

Yet, Benchmark expects any UK Gigafactory to be larger than this average and designed for an initial 30GWh capacity with the ability to scale to 70GWh. On this basis, the country would need 3 or 4 of these super sized battery cell plants in the next 7 years.

The UK would also need to attract tier one battery producers that have a track record of producing at scale and quality. Benchmark’s tier one battery cell producers are presently assessed as: LG Chem, Panasonic, Tesla, CATL, SK Innovation and Envision AESC.

Lithium ion batteries were described in Moores’ Senate speech as a “core platform technology” for the next 100 years allowing the basis for three valuable industries to thrive: electric vehicles, energy storage and consumer electronics.

The need for tier one lithium ion battery cell suppliers has been outlined by Benchmark’s analysts time and again, followed by super-sized cathode and anode plants and secure raw material supply chains to feed them.

Read and Listen to Benchmark’s Simon Moores US Senate Testimony here

Listen to Senator Lisa Murkowski interview Benchmark’s Simon Moores here 

If you are interested in connecting, you can contact Team Benchmark at [email protected]