Making Britain the go-to place for the next generation of vehicles

A £246m investment in developing battery technology in Britain is to be launched by the government as part of its drive towards what it says is a modern industrial strategy.

The £246m, to be spent over four years on research and innovation in battery technology, is likely to have particular benefits in the automotive sector and renewable energy. Professor Philip Nelson, chief executive of the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council, said: “Batteries will form a cornerstone of a low carbon economy, whether in cars, aircraft, consumer electronics, district or grid storage. To deliver the UK’s low-carbon economy we must consolidate and grow our capabilities in novel battery technology.”

At the end of July this year, production of the Mini Electric was confirmed for its Oxford plant in 2019.

The new EV model will go into production in 2019, with Oxford the main ‘production location’ for the Mini three-door model. The electric motor will be built in Germany before being shipped to Cowley for assembly. The move ends worries the new model could be made overseas after a warning in February from German owner BMW that it may look outside the UK because of the uncertainty caused by Brexit. On Brexit, BMW said it had ‘neither sought nor received’ any reassurances from the UK on post-Brexit trading arrangements.

A big vote of confidence in the tremendous skills and efficiency of BMW’s UK workers

The business secretary, Greg Clark, welcomed the news, saying: “This is a landmark decision that is a vote of confidence in the workforce and in the determination of our industrial strategy to make Britain the go-to place in the world for the next generation of vehicles.”
BMW’s announcement came a day after Clark launched a £246m fund to invest in battery technology in Britain, a key factor in the progress of electric vehicles.

Unite, which represents the 4,500 workers at the Cowley plant, said the decision on the Mini was “down to the tremendous skills and efficiency of BMW’s UK workers and our members”. 

Unite assistant general secretary Tony Burke said the announcement was a "big vote of confidence" in BMW's UK workforce. He told the BBC that there had been "patient discussions behind the scenes" to secure the electric Mini. Although there was no news about extra jobs, Mr Burke said the new Mini would "certainly underpin existing employment".

Len McCluskey, the union’s general secretary, said: “This announcement is a huge and totally deserved boost to a world class workforce that has endured a tough few months.”

Invest faster in the developing electric car industry

McCluskey urged the government to invest faster in the developing electric car industry, particularly in charging infrastructure. “We urge the government to waste no more time – in bringing forward an industrial strategy of the scale and scope to ensure UK manufacturing stays in the fast lane,” he added.

Good news for everybody on the team at Plant Oxford

Frank Bachmann, managing director at Cowley, told the Oxford Mail: “This is good news for everybody on the team at Plant Oxford and this addition to the model line-up marks an important next step in the evolution of Mini. “As the main manufacturer of the Mini three-door, with production expertise built up over many years, it makes sense for us to build this all-electric model.

“I know that everyone on the plant is looking forward to the project that lies ahead.”

The German carmaker said the Mini announcement was part of a plan for electrified vehicles to account for between 15-25% of its sales by 2025. BMW employs about 18,000 staff in the UK, including the Mini plant at Cowley, the Rolls-Royce factory in Sussex and at other sites in Birmingham and Swindon.


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