The plant Stellantis in Ellesmere Harbour (United Kingdom) began production of electric K9 vans this month, also manufactured by Balaídos. The factory, the first to exclusively produce vehicles zero emissions in the country has been headed by since February last year Diane Miller responsible for piloting this electrification and launching a factory with close ties to Vigo.
–What is it like to work in a factory that only produces electric vehicles?
–It’s particularly exciting for us as we are the first in the UK dedicated exclusively to electric vehicle manufacturing and the first for Stellantis globally. Following the €120 million investment in the factory, it has been completely redesigned to ensure our facilities deliver best-in-class efficiency. The biggest difference is the new battery workshop, where we assemble battery modules into a battery pack that powers the vehicle instead of the combustion engine.
–What main work was carried out?
–There were several important changes, including the inclusion of the battery assembly shop. We also modernized general assembly and relocated the body shop, which helped reduce total factory space by 60%, improving energy efficiency and productivity. We have changed the paint system to four wet applications, which eliminates the baking cycle and significantly reduces energy consumption. We have also introduced more efficient automated processes, such as the use of automated guided vehicles to replace traditional forklifts and transport systems, providing flexibility and saving emissions and energy.
– The factory now has 118,000 square meters, a similar size to the previous body shop. Is it less necessary?
–Body Shop Is Still Incredibly Important: The move was one of the most important changes we made to the factory, reducing it from the size of 14 football fields to three and making it one of the most efficient and optimally automated body shop facilities made. Stellantis bodywork in Europe.
–Industry experts warn that fewer workers will be required to produce electric cars. Has the workforce decreased compared to before the plant was electrified?
–The factory has maintained the required levels of employment as part of its investment and is currently recruiting new employees to bring the total number of employees to just over 1,000, with many more thousands of indirect jobs along the value chain and in the economy at large. For every direct job that we employ in our companies, there are three additional indirect jobs. The investment in the plant secures these jobs over the entire term of the investment.
–They produce four models of electric vans. What has been the biggest challenge for you so far?
–We installed completely new systems to prepare the factory for electric vehicle production, which was a big challenge for the team, so we are pleased to have met the high quality standards required to officially start production.
–Many of the components come from Vigo and Portugal. Do you expect any of these to be manufactured locally in the future?
–We already produce several components internally. In addition to the initial 120 million euros, we received an additional investment of 20 million euros, which was used to purchase molds for our press shop and injection molding equipment to produce bumpers and other plastic parts. We are continually reviewing our supply base and would like to localize as much of our supply base as possible.
–How do you rate Vigo’s collaboration with the Ellesmere Port plant?
–We work closely with Stellantis Vigo. In fact, the factory manager, Ignacio Bueno, worked in Ellesmere Port a few years ago and has a close relationship with our factory. Working with the Vigo team, we recently launched a new maritime logistics service to deliver parts from partner companies based near Vigo to the port of Ellesmere. The ship will sail from the port of Vigo to our new dock, located 5 km from the port of Ellesmere. Compared to road traffic, this means 30% less CO2 emissions per year and 37% less energy consumption.
–Is the Vigo factory the mirror in which you look at the new production that has just started?
– After visiting the Vigo factory, I was impressed by what I saw and used it as a reference for our own performance. Ignacio and his team were a great support for us. Many of our employees visited their Vigo colleagues on the production line and worked with them to learn about the new product. We also received reciprocal visits from the Vigo team to learn our processes and help us set up the new facilities. I am pleased that the growing demand for this type of vehicle allows us to complement Vigo’s current production.
–Are you concerned about the car tariffs coming into force in January 2024 and what impact they may have on Ellesmere Port?
–We are concerned about the impact of the planned tightening of rules of origin for batteries in 2024 on the UK’s competitiveness as a player in the global automotive industry. If rules of origin for batteries are tightened in 2024, UK manufacturing facilities could be at a competitive disadvantage due to higher logistics costs. We are working closely with the UK government and the EU on this issue. The investment and start of production at Ellesmere Port demonstrates our commitment to the UK market.