Business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said today he believes Somerset “has the manufacturing skill and competence to be able to sustain an excellent gigafactory”, adding that the government is “considering and looking” at a site in the county.
This follows media speculation last year that the Elon Musk-run electric vehicle manufacturer could build a 90-acre factory in Somerset.
Tesla CEO Musk flew his private jet to Bristol last summer to examine potential sites for the EV company’s continued rapid expansion, according to Property Week.
To guarantee the UK can manufacture cars in the electric era, there needs to be a step up in investment in all aspects of the car making supply chain, especially batteries.
The Department for International Trade has approached local enterprise partnerships across the UK about information on large sites in the hope of enticing electric car manufacturers, The Times has reported.
“The DIT is working closely with partners to scope out sites for new investment into electric vehicle research, development and manufacturing across the UK,” a spokesman for the government department said.
Somerset’s Gravity low-carbon business park, which spans over 600 acres on the site of a former Royal Ordnance factory, has been mooted as the perfect potential home for the huge plant.
Last year, Tesla chose a site near Berlin in Germany to locate its first European factory, instead of a proposed location in north-east England.
Musk said the company chose Brandenburg over the Tees Valley due to “Brexit uncertainty”.
But after difficulties with the construction of a Gigafactory near Berlin, the mayors of Tees Valley and Hartlepool sent a letter to urge the Tesla boss that it wasn’t too late to change his mind.
If Tesla is looking to expand with another overseas factory, the UK will have plenty of competition on its hands, including from India, where transport minister Nitin Gadkari said recently that the country is ready to offer strong incentives to ensure low production costs are even lower than its Gigafactory Shanghai in China.
“Rather than assembling (the cars) in India, they should make the entire product in the country by hiring local vendors. Then we can give higher concessions. The government will make sure the production cost for Tesla will be the lowest when compared with the world, even China, when they start manufacturing their cars in India. We will assure that,” Gadkari told Reuters.
Tesla is also reported to be looking to expand the size of its site in China by snapping up a plot of land next to its current gigafactory, with speculation that this area may be allotted for the production of Tesla’s new vehicles like a US$25,000 compact car or its Semi project.