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That 4.5M SF UK Gigafactory Plan Explained


A 4.5M SF gigafactory could be built in Coventry, if the city’s civic leaders get their way.

Tesla founder Elon Musk defined a gigafactory as a “machine that builds the machine,” but you could less romantically call them places to make electric batteries. 

The bid for a large-scale battery factory at Rigby Group's Coventry airport comes just weeks after a site in the North East was selected for the UK’s first gigafactory and just days after local carmaker JLR delivered a wake-up call.

Jaguar Land Rover announced a switch to electric vehicle production and, as part of the plan, an end to large-scale car manufacturing at its Castle Bromwich site in the West Midlands by 2025.

Moving into electric battery production is central to keeping auto industry jobs in the West Midlands and to the UK government’s plans for a rapid reduction in carbon emissions.

A joint venture between Coventry City Council and Regional City Airports will seek planning permission for a gigafactory. They aim to secure planning permission this year and attract a manufacturer to start production by 2025, Construction Index reports.

A development on this scale is hard to imagine without a convincing pre-let.

The UK government says up to £500M in funding is available for a new UK gigafactory. Coventry and Regional City Airports will now prepare a business case and submit it to the UK government, and talks with car manufacturers and battery specialists are already in progress.

The joint venture between Coventry City Council and the airport is expected to be ratified at a council meeting next week.

Tesla's Model S 75D

The West Midlands Combined Authority stepped up its campaign for a regional gigafactory in September. 

“The West Midlands was at the core of the industrial revolution, and we will be at the core of the green industrial revolution… Decarbonising our industrial base is at the centre of our vision for economic recovery, including support for a Gigafactory,” an authority budget bid claimed at the time.

The UK’s first gigafactory was originally planned for a site in South Wales but it has since migrated to a location in Northumbria, close to the Scottish border.

Britishvolt announced in December that it was starting construction work on the new £2.6B gigafactory at Blyth, with the intention of producing lithium-ion batteries by the end of 2023. It could produce over 300,000 batteries a year, AutoCar reports.

Tesla has been expanding its gigafactory footprint globally. It built a 1.9M SF gigafactory in Reno, Nevada, in 2016. Tesla has now opened four more ranging geographically from Gigafactory 3 in Shanghai to Gigafactory 4 outside Berlin. Gigafactories remarkable not only for their size, but for their energy self-sufficiency thanks to solar and geothermal power.

Musk has been quoted saying that as many as a hundred gigafactories will be necessary to help the world move to sustainable energy consumption.