United Kingdom - Country Commercial Guide
Electric Vehicles/Autonomous Technologies

This is a best prospect industry sector for this country.  Includes a market overview and trade data.

Last published date: 2021-09-22

Overview

In the summer of 2019, the UK Parliament passed a law requiring the country to reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, making it the first G7 economy to do so.  To achieve this, it will fundamentally require wholesale changes in the way Britons travel, use energy and eat.  When it comes to future mobility, the UK government has set the country firmly on the road to electric and autonomous vehicles (EV and AV). In 2018, the UK government announced a ban on the sale of new petrol and diesel cars and vans from 2040. However, in February 2020, the target year was reduced to 2035 and then in November 2020 the commitment was brought forward to 2030 as part of the what the Government’s call the “10-point plan for a green industrial revolution.” The 10-point plan also called for the end of sales of hybrid cars and vans after 2035.

“Now is the time to plan for a green recovery with high-skilled jobs that give people the satisfaction of knowing they are helping to make the country cleaner, greener and more beautiful,” Prime Minister Boris Johnson said. The Government is setting aside £12 billion ($16 billion) for the 10-point plan, with as much as three times that amount coming from the private sector, with the claim it will create and support 250,000 highly skilled green jobs by 2030. The plan offers $776 million in grants for those buying zero or ultra-low emission vehicles to make them cheaper to buy. However, the success of the converting the nation to EV/AV users will depend on reassuring consumers that they can afford these new technologies.  Also, the new deadline of 2030 presents some in immense challenges for the automotive sector across the board.

Although the ban on sales of ICE vehicles comes into effect from 2030, it is recognized a plan for the next 20 years is needed, to ensure that the roll-out of emerging vehicle technologies addresses numerous critical factors. Crucially, this plan must also look at the bigger picture of how these new technologies fit within and disrupt an already rapidly changing society, one with an increasing population, urbanization and changing consumer needs.

In the short-term, issues surrounding EV costs and charging point provision need to be resolved. The UK government announced £1.3 billion in investment to support the development of EV charging infrastructure (see the 10-point plant for more information). In the longer-term, autonomous vehicles promise to shake up the mobility landscape, but trials are needed to resolve ongoing concerns around safety, insurance and liability.

Infrastructure is key.  Battery costs have halved in the last five years. The technology has also improved to provide vehicles with a range that is sufficient for most people’s needs, in some cases they can be driven over 250 miles on a single charge. Nonetheless, infrastructure is needed to support wider usage and to encourage continued take-up. Transport for London (TfL) introduced legislation in 2018 requiring all new taxis are electric or hybrid. As a result, they have been and continue to increase the stock of rapid chargers across the capital needed to support this move.

The widespread expansion of EVs will place additional pressure on UK energy systems. In some cases, local electricity network capacity could be insufficient to cope with rapidly increased demand. EVs require a high charging load spread across long periods of time, meaning energy must be supplied at the right place and time to maximize efficiency from the network. Part of the solution will be smart grids, which offer the ability to control the timing of charging. This will also create opportunities to balance electricity demand with variable supply from sources such as wind power. Planning for this is required prior to mass take-up of EVs.

Leading Sub-Sectors

  • Gigafactories – battery production
  • Charging infrastructure/charging stations
  • Electricity network/supply

Opportunities

The following are the key steps that have been highlighted by the automotive sector for achieving the Governments vision for EV and AVs in the UK and all present opportunities for US companies working in this sector.

  • Support the rollout of charging points across the UK: This is crucial to enable large-scale take-up of electric vehicles.
  • Upgrading the UK’s electricity network: reinforcement of power supply and enhancement of electricity transmission and distribution networks is needed to handle EVs at a local level.
  • The eventual roll-out of autonomous and shared vehicles, in accordance with a legal framework and the boundaries for operation once these are fully in place.
  • Test the technology: further trials are need for autonomous taxis, private vehicles, shared vehicles, freight, shuttle and bus services before the UK government’s allows autonomous vehicles on our roads.
  • Build the infrastructure: this includes physical changes to parking capacity, drop-off/pick-up space, and digital requirements for vehicle to vehicle (V2V) and vehicle to infrastructure (V2I) communications.

Resources

  • UK Government’s Office for Zero Emission Vehicles
  • UK Government’s overview of steps towards net-zero and end of sale of new petrol and diesel cars by 2030
  • UK Government Legislation: Automated and Electric Vehicles Act 2018
  • UK Government report on building a comprehensive and competitive electric vehicle charging sector
  • Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders
  • Society of Motor Manufactures and Traders: BluePrint for the Electric Vehicle Revolution