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Supply chain for battery electric vehicles inquiry launched

4 May 2021

In the latest stage of its Technological Innovation and Climate Change inquiry, the Environmental Audit Committee (EAC) announces that it is to look at the supply chain for battery electric vehicles.

In order for the UK’s shift to electric vehicles to be successful, a supply chain focused on battery technology and the associated power electronics, machines and drives (PEMD) will be required. A delay in growing this supply chain, or a failure to establish it, could undermine any advantage the UK has in this field. This would be reflected in fewer green jobs, reduced profits and increased carbon emissions, potentially jeopardising the Government’s net zero ambition.

Key issues to be addressed in establishing a supply chain include: Government encouragement to battery manufacturers to site high-volume battery manufacturing plants (‘gigafactories’) in the UK; investment in training; and the ethical sourcing of materials used in battery manufacture.

It has been estimated that at least eight gigafactories will need to be operational by 2040 to meet anticipated demand for electric vehicles resulting from the Government’s plans to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars from 2030. Construction of the UK’s first gigafactory has been announced, which is to be sited in Blyth, Northumberland.

An estimated six million skilled people will be affected by the transition to net zero and will need to be retrained in low-carbon industries. The Government has announced its Green Jobs Taskforce to support this transition.

Lithium-ion batteries are currently the main battery technology used in electric vehicles. While there are plans to mine lithium in Cornwall, extraction brings with it concerns about habitat destruction, pollution and water use. The necessity for mining could be reduced with effective reuse and recycling.

Chair' comment

Environmental Audit Committee Chairman, Rt Hon Philip Dunne MP, launching the EAC’s call for evidence, said:

“The Government has pledged to ban the sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030. But the road to meet this commitment could be rocky, with challenges in manufacturing capacity, a skilled workforce and extraction of critical components. We will be holding an evidence session in June to explore how the supply chain can be developed to support the transition to electric vehicles. We encourage anyone concerned about this issue to consider making a contribution.”

Terms of reference

The Committee is inviting written submissions to inform its forthcoming evidence session by 5pm on Friday 21st May. These should focus on, but not be limited to:

  • What contribution could battery electric vehicles make to achieving net zero by 2050?
  • How well is Government policy aligned with high-level commitment for growth of battery electric vehicles to support its net zero ambition?
  • Are the UK supply chain opportunities around supply of batteries and power electronics, machines and drive supply chain clear?
  • What natural advantages in terms of access to raw materials, renewable energy supply, technological readiness, IP or other competitive advantage does the UK have to encourage development of battery manufacture in the UK?
  • What action is needed to support investment and establishment of UK gigafactories?
  • What should the Government do to ensure that gigafactories have a safe, reliable power supply which meets net zero requirements?
  • What action is needed to support growth of associated power electronics, machines and drive supply chain, including securing supply of raw materials and material processing?
  • The Government has announced £1 billion of funding to support the electrification of UK vehicles and their supply chains. Is this figure sufficient? How should it be split between supply chains and gigafactories?
  • The £1 billion Net Zero Innovation Portfolio will focus on research into low carbon technologies. What proportion of this funding should be directed towards battery electric vehicle research? What areas should ARIA target in distributing funding for high-risk, high-reward research into battery electric vehicles?
  • What steps should be taken to ensure the UK workforce has the necessary skills to staff gigafactories and their supporting supply chains?
  • What measures should the Government take to ensure that minerals for battery electric vehicles are sourced in a responsible way?
  • What action can Government take to support growth of secondary markets to extend lifetime use of EV batteries?
  • What steps should be taken to ensure that EV batteries are recycled at the end of their lives and not simply sent to landfill?

Further information

Image: CCO