India’s Tata Group will build an electric vehicle (EV) battery plant in the United Kingdom to supply its Jaguar Land Rover factories, delivering a major boost for a car industry in need of domestic battery production to help secure its future.
Under the plan, announced by the British government and Tata on Wednesday, the company will build its first gigafactory outside of India in Britain with an investment of 4 billion pounds ($5.2bn), creating up to 4,000 jobs and producing an initial output of 40 gigawatt hours (GWh).
UK Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s government has declined to say how much financial support it promised in order to secure the investment and fend off Spain, which had also lobbied to win the project.
The BBC said the government would provide subsidies worth hundreds of millions of pounds to Tata.
Britain has lagged European rivals in building EV battery gigafactories, with more than 30 planned or under construction across the European Union. Britain currently has one small Nissan plant and another in the works.
“Tata Group’s multibillion-pound investment in a new battery factory in the UK is testament to the strength of our car manufacturing industry and its skilled workers,” Sunak said in the statement.
The new plant is expected to be built in Somerset in southwest England, while Jaguar Land Rover’s UK factories are based near Birmingham in central England.
Production at the factory, which is set to supply JLR’s future battery electric models, including the Range Rover, Defender, Discovery and Jaguar brands, is due to start in 2026, the government said.
Domestic production is vital for automakers which rely on heavy batteries being built near their car plants.
With an initial output of 40 GWh, Britain said the factory would provide almost half of the battery production needed by 2030. The Faraday Institution has projected UK battery demand to reach more than 100 GWh a year by that time.
“With this strategic investment, the Tata Group further strengthens its commitment to the UK,” Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran said in the statement.
Mike Hawes, head of Britain’s auto industry group SMMT, said the investment was a shot in the arm for the UK.
“It comes at a critical moment, with the global industry transitioning at pace to electrification, producing batteries in the UK is essential if we are to anchor wider vehicle production here for the long term,” he said.
Andy Palmer, a former CEO of Aston Martin and current chairman of EV battery maker InoBat, told BBC Radio government subsidies were needed to keep Britain competitive.
“Almost every car-producing nation in the world [is] offering a lot of incentives in order to ensure that they preserve the integrity of their car industry,” he said.
Britain has expressed concerns at the United States’ Inflation Reduction Act, which promises hundreds of billions of dollars of subsidies to green industries.
Chancellor Jeremy Hunt, who has previously said Britain does not have large sums of money for similar subsidies, said he would not get into commercially sensitive topics but acknowledged Britain’s need to attract big projects.
“We are in competition with countries all over the world for these big investments,” he told broadcasters.
While Europe as a whole is battling for investment in the battery sector due to stiff competition from China, the striking failure of startup Britishvolt in January underlined the challenges in establishing a homegrown industry in Britain, where there is a shortage of suitable sites for such plants.
Homegrown battery production will also help automakers comply with post-Brexit trade rules that will require them to source more electric vehicle components locally in order to avoid tariffs on UK-EU trade from 2024.
Britain has also set net zero goals including a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030.
Environmental body Greenpeace welcomed the announcement as a “significant moment for the UK car industry and a signal that the government has finally started the engine in the international clean technology race, while others are speeding ahead”.
Greenpeace senior climate campaigner Paul Morozzo, however, warned that the UK government must stay on track with its plan to phase out petrol and diesel vehicles.
“Failing to do so would mean waving goodbye to any meaningful electric vehicle manufacturing sector in the UK, regardless of this new gigafactory, which would put domestic car manufacturing as a whole in jeopardy,” he said.