Members of the UK’s Parliament have been told by expert witnesses that the future of Britain’s automotive sector is under threat because it has not developed an electric battery industry.

The comments were made by two panels of expert witnesses to lawmakers on the Business and Trade Committee. The experts included Simon Moore, the chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence, Jeff Townsend, founder of Critical Minerals Association and Paul Lusty, director of UK Critical Minerals Intelligence Centre.

Simon Moore, the chief executive of Benchmark Mineral Intelligence said: “We [the UK] are very far behind this global battery arms race.”

“The US has really got its act together with the Inflation Reduction Act – we are seeing the US really push ahead with battery plants and the supply chains to fuel them.”

“The UK, at the moment, doesn’t have a strategy, doesn’t have a runner in this race. Unless you are making batteries here and have the chemical plants to fuel those batteries – the midstream in the supply chain – you are not involved in this industry and this energy storage revolution.”

The UK accounts for 0.2% of the world’s lithium-ion cell capacity. There have been attempts to enter the world EV battery market, notably with startup Britishvolt.

The company had its sights on making batteries for electric vehicles and had achieved “unicorn” status, being valued at over $1 billion (£882 million). However, at the beginning of this year it went administration with a planned manufacturing facility still under construction.

To date, the UK has one small-scale battery plant in operation. It is owned by Shanghai-based company Envision.

There are approximately 800,000 people employed in the UK automotive sector, according to UK trade association the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). Automotive is one the UK’s major employers, with over 180,000 workers in automotive related manufacturing roles.

There are warnings that around 100,000 jobs in the automotive sector would be in danger if the UK cannot attract gigafactories.  

See also:

Automakers start shaping their battery supply chain strategies

Britishvolt collapse shows structural weakness of UK automotive industry