Inside Ellesmere Port: the UK’s first EV-only manufacturing plant

Following a £100m investment, Vauxhall’s Ellesmere Port plant has become the UK’s first all-electric car plant. Sitting on the shore of the Mersey, just south of Liverpool, the plant produces vans and passenger vehicles like the cutting-edge Vauxhall Combo Electric, which runs on a 52kWh lithium ion battery.

The plant’s director, Dianne Miller, recently won an Autocar Great Women Manufacturing award in recognition of her role in the electrification of the plant, a critical part of parent company Stellantis’s aim to halve their carbon footprint by 2030. We talked to her about hydrogen power, local jobs and why it’s vital that we keep vehicle manufacturing in the UK.

What is the motivation behind Vauxhall’s accelerated pathway to full electrification?

We recognise that we need to decarbonise for the future and that’s why our ethos is to get to carbon neutrality as soon as possible – we’ve made it one of our main strategy goals. We also recognise that the Vauxhall brand is 120 years old and for it to stay relevant, we need to offer electric variants for every model we make, which we now do across the board. Our Vauxhall plant at Ellesmere Port is now 100% electric, which makes it the first such plant in the UK.

What kind of cutting edge technology and infrastructure upgrades have you invested in at Ellesmere port?

The major investment has been the development of our battery plant. On an EV, each battery pack weighs about 350kg. We have 18 people per shift working on the battery packs, and they turn out roughly 120 of them a day. Each pack is made of twelve modules, each of which is about the size of the traditional 12-volt battery in an internal combustion engine (ICE) car and the workers need to be trained to high standards to put them together. In terms of sustainability, building them here helps us cut our emissions as they are heavy, and it’s not environmentally friendly to transport them around the world.

“At Ellesmere Port, our ethos is that it’s not just the product that needs to be carbon neutral, it’s the plant as well” (Supplied)

At Ellesmere Port, our ethos is that it’s not just the product that needs to be carbon neutral, it’s the plant as well. In our bid to become more carbon neutral we’ve switched to a “4Wet technology” when it comes to painting the vehicles, which cuts down on the number of times they need to be baked in an oven. We’ve made the plant smaller so we don’t need so much inventory, and we’ve prioritised reuse, reprogramming robots that used to work on ICE cars to do different tasks on electric vehicles.

What do you think the strategic implications are for Vauxhall and for the wider automotive industry?

The original plan for the wider UK automotive industry was a ban on new sales of ICE vehicles by 2030, which the government then changed to 2035. We are sticking to our goal of full electrification by 2030, which is part of Stellantis’s plan to cut 50% of its 2021 carbon footprint by 2030 and be Net Zero, globally, by 2038. In the near future, we hope to work with the HyNet North West Hydrogen Pipeline, which should supply us with green hydrogen to power our system, and we’re planning to invest in on-site solar, which means that by 2027/28 we should be carbon neutral as a plant as well.

Finally, what kind of role does Ellesmere Port play in the local economy?

Ellesmere Port is a big local employer with more than 1,000 people working at the plant
Ellesmere Port is a big local employer with more than 1,000 people working at the plant (Supplied)

We are a big employer with over 1,000 people working at the plant. We’re trying to work with the Welsh Government and the Northern Automotive Alliance to reach out to local parts suppliers, who can be competitive with international suppliers because they don’t have to cover the cost of shipping. And we’ve developed a new maritime logistics service with our own ship that connects us directly with our sister plant in Vigo. Peel Ports have created a special hub for us at the Queen Elizabeth II Eastham dock, which is just two miles from the plant and sending parts this way takes around 14,700 lorry journeys off Europe’s roads every year and reduces our logistics carbon footprint by 30%.

If you drive an electric vehicle today or would consider driving one in the future, fill in the simple form below to help accelerate the electrification of the UK’s roads and create a better environment for all.

To find out more about Vauxhall’s EV range, and the Electric Streets Campaign, visit Vauxhall

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