Jaguar Land Rover set to build electric cars in UK

Jaguar cars at a dealer outlet in London. Jaguar Land Rover has announced it will manufacture an all-electric version of the Jaguar XJ sedan in the UK. (AP)
Updated 06 July 2019

Jaguar Land Rover set to build electric cars in UK

  • Vehicle production will secure thousands of jobs in boost to post-Brexit Britain

LONDON: Car manufacturer Jaguar Land Rover has decided to produce a range of electric vehicles at its central England factory, it announced Friday, securing thousands of jobs in a major boost to post-Brexit Britain.

“Jaguar Land Rover today revealed plans to manufacture a range of new electrified vehicles at its manufacturing plant in Castle Bromwich, UK,” the Indian-owned group said in a statement.

The facility in Birmingham, Britain’s second biggest city, will produce the electric vehicles in an investment worth £1 billion ($1.3 billion) according to the Financial Times.

The first car to roll off the production line at Castle Bromwich, which currently employs 2,500 workers, will be the next-generation all-electric Jaguar XJ luxury saloon model.

The news is a welcome fillip for the nation’s largely foreign-owned car sector, which has long warned over the impact of Britain’s looming departure from the EU at the end of October.

FASTFACT

 

• £70m - Britain’s auto sector has said that a no-deal Brexit could cost UK-based carmakers up to £70 million ($89 million) daily through delays to production.

Batteries will be made in neighboring Hams Hall, Warwickshire, while electric motors will be manufactured at JLR’s engine plant close to the nearby city of Wolverhampton.

“Today’s announcement, which safeguards several thousand jobs in the UK, is the next stage in execution of Jaguar Land Rover’s electrification strategy,” JLR added.

The group aims to offer electrified options for all new Jaguar and Land Rover models by 2020.

“The future of mobility is electric and as a visionary British company, we are committed to making our next generation of zero-emission vehicles in the UK,” said JLR Chief Executive Ralf Speth.

The investment, praised as “trailblazing” by Britain’s biggest trade union Unite, follows an agreement for employees to work a four-day week as part of restructuring plans.

“This is a proud day for our members and Jaguar Land Rover,” said Steve Turner, Unite assistant general secretary for manufacturing.

Cardiff University professor Peter Wells cautioned that Brexit was probably not a major factor in JLR’s decision, given its existing UK manufacturing operations and declining consumer demand for high-polluting diesel cars.

“The company is constrained by what they’ve got ... it’s not really a Brexit-related decision,” Wells told AFP.

“It’s more an issue that has been forced upon the company, perhaps faster than they had wanted.

“The market is changing across the world quicker than many car companies have anticipated, so in that respect the company was essentially forced to invest in the UK — even though it’s not perhaps ideal in terms of reaching those key European markets.”

Britain’s auto sector had warned last week that a no-deal Brexit could cost UK-based carmakers up to £70 million ($89 million) daily through delays to production.

JLR, which launched its first electric vehicle I-PACE last year, is meanwhile late to develop its strategy for the segment.

“It is not alone in being late ... but certainly, given that the Nissan Leaf has been out for many years now, and Tesla has been making waves for some time in the kind of segments that Jaguar and Land Rover operate in, then clearly there is concern,” Wells said.

“It’s not so easy to ramp up the production of electric vehicles at this point because of concerns over supply — the battery technology and the materials needed.


Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

Updated 22 October 2020

Taps and reservoirs run dry as Moroccan drought hits farmers

  • The problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year in Morocco

RABAT: Two years of drought have drained reservoirs in southern Morocco, threatening crops the region relies on and leading to nightly cuts in tap water for an area that is home to a million people.

In a country that relies on farming for two jobs in five and 14 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the problems caused by increasingly erratic rainfall and the depletion of groundwater are growing every year.

In the rich citrus plantations of El-Guerdan, stretching eastward from the southern city of Agadir, more than half of farmers rely on two dams in the mountains of Aoulouz, 126 km away, to irrigate their trees.

However, that water has been diverted to the tourist hub of Agadir, where mains water has been cut to residential areas every night since Oct. 3 to ensure taps in households did not run entirely dry.

“The priority should go to drinking water,” Agriculture Minister Aziz Akhannouch said in parliament last week.

In El-Guerdan, Youssef Jebha’s crop of clementine oranges has been compromised by reduced water supply, he said, which affects both the quality of fruit and the size of the harvest.

“The available ground water is barely enough to keep the trees alive,” said Jebha, who is head of a regional farmers’ association.

“Saving Agadir should not be at the expense of El-Guerdan farmers,” he added, speaking by phone.

‘We hope for rain’

El-Guerdan is not alone in facing drought. Morocco’s harvest of cereals this year was less than half that of 2019, meaning hundreds of millions of dollars of extra import costs.

Despite lower production, Moroccan exports of fresh produce have risen this year by 8 percent. 

Critics of the government’s agricultural policy say such sales are tantamount to exporting water itself, given the crops use up so many resources.

A report by Morocco’s social and environmental council, an official advisory body, warned that four-fifths of the country’s water resources could vanish over the next 25 years.

It also warned of the risks to social peace due to water scarcity. In 2017, 23 people were arrested after protests over water shortages in the southeastern city of Zagora.

In January the government said it would spend $12 billion on boosting water supply over the next seven years by building new dams and desalination plants.

One $480 million plant, with a daily capacity of 400,000 cubic meters, is expected to start pumping in March, with the water divided between residential areas and farms.

Until then, “We hope for rain,” the agriculture minister said in parliament.

In El-Guerdan, the farmers are digging for water. A new well costs $20,000-30,000. However, “there is no guarantee water can be found due to the depletion of ground reserves,” said Ahmed Bounaama, another farmer.