Our friends over at Transport & Environment (T&E) are concerned that the UK is taking its electric vehicle production sector for granted and not doing enough to retain its EV production leadership.
According to the organization, 50% of the EVs produced in Europe were produced in the UK in 2018. That’s quite a percentage, and it’s not realistic to assume such a market share would persist when you’ve got large automakers in several countries (Germany, France, Spain, Czech Republic, etc.) that are going to produced more and more EVs and certainly aren’t going to move their factories to the UK. That said, T&E is concerned that the UK’s market share of EV production in Europe will drop to a mere 4% by 2030.
“A chronic lack of future investment in UK factories by carmakers is to blame,” the organization states, and that’s not just foreign automakers that never had a foot in the UK anyway — “with the companies owning UK factories amongst the least prepared for the shift to electric cars.”
According to T&E’s analysis of IHS data, by 2030, half of automobile production in Europe should be battery-electric cars, but that only a quarter of the cars produced in the UK will be battery electric based on automakers’ current plans.
“By 2030, the UK is forecast to have the lowest per capita production of battery electric cars of major car producing countries – lower than even Italy.” Lower than even Italy! (Save that for the Euro final next Sunday.) “By 2030: half or more of the cars made in Germany, Spain and France will be battery electric.” This is not uplifting if true.
The head of T&E also points out one reason why this is not a good outlook for the UK. “The UK will be among the first countries in Europe to end the sale of new cars with a combustion engine, but these will be overwhelmingly imported without companies investing here,” UK Director of Transport and Environment Greg Archer says. “UK car industry dinosaurs will be extinct within a decade unless they invest in new battery manufacturing and convert existing production to electric models.” That sounds about right.
Naturally, part of the problem is that some of the auto producers in the UK are the most lethargic when it comes to switching to EVs. They’ve got Toyota, which “has slipped from the leading green car company 10 years ago to being the least prepared for the electrification revolution that is underway.” It has no apparent plans to build plugin vehicles at its Derby factory.
Jaguar has some good electrification targets, but the larger Jaguar Land Rover crew is asleep behind the wheel. It is reportedly “the second least prepared company for the shift to electric cars and last year was fined for missing CO2 reduction targets.” Then there’s BMW and the giant Stellantis alliance. “Stellantis, which owns Vauxhall, is better prepared to transition to electric cars but is focusing new electric car production in EU countries,” T&E reports. And there’s Nissan. … “Once a leader in battery electric cars, Nissan plans only modest growth in battery electric car production at its Sunderland plant.”
There’s also the less talked about but critical matter of EV battery production. “While discussions are underway to extend battery manufacturing in Teesside, the 6.5GWh of cell production initially planned is a tiny fraction of the 474GWH of production at 17 sites across Europe for which funding has already been secured. A further 10 gigafactory projects (including BritishVolt) have been announced, which would take total cell production to over 1000GWh. But these projects are unlikely to go ahead unless there are stronger regulations in the UK and EU to phase out cars with engines.”
No, it’s not looking great for Britain when it comes to electric vehicle production, even though EV adoption has been growing strong in Britain. Hopefully, though, reports like this help to educate more people and persuade them to come to the good side. The government has a role to play as well, of course. “The Government must show the UK car industry it is serious about ending the sales of cars with engines by announcing a delivery plan to go with its commitments. We need carmakers to progressively increase sales of zero emission cars until 2035 and to fine those who fail to make adequate progress. Without strong pressure to change, and investment support, the UK car industry will wither away.”
Come on, Britain — move it!