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With certainty, I can say that there will be an increase in the number of electric vehicles, both pure-EV and hybrid types, on our roads.  How quickly and by how many is open to debate. Global forecasts for electric vehicles (EVs) range from 1%  to over 10%  of 2020 new vehicle registrations

Since January 2011 the UK has seen growth of over 850%  in the number of pure-electric cars on the roads, at a time when the economy has been in recession, twice. 

There are three key drivers for this move to lower carbon transport; legislation, environmental responsibility and market opportunity.  Likely EU CO2 targets of 95g/km for passenger cars and 147g/km for vans by 2020 are a challenge the industry is striving to meet. The recent SMMT New Car CO2 Report highlighted the significant improvements in new car tailpipe emissions, a reduction of 23% since 2000, down 4.2 % in 2011 alone. It has been achieved through improvements across a range of technologies, including efficiency gains in the internal combustion engine. 

The future of our roads will involve a range of technologies, only one of which is electric.  This is good for consumer choice, but inevitably, with choice comes complexity.  The market is in a classic early adopter phase, with total numbers of pure-electric car in the UK parc still low, at 1466 in March 2012. Low carbon vehicle demonstrator programmes have shown how quickly drivers develop a preference for an EV, but there is still much to do to engage the wider car buying public and government procurement centres with the benefits of EVs.

An EV offers a solution to a range of urban issues.  At the tailpipe EVs emit no particulates as well as no CO2, an important benefit as the management of air quality becomes increasingly important. Their low levels of noise can facilitate night-time deliveries, freeing urban roads from day-time freight.  In the future, EVs will be increasingly ‘green’ to charge with the decarbonisation of the grid and provide the unique benefit of maintaining individual mobility while encouraging UK fuel diversity and security.  Environmental responsibility is also seen at a manufacturing level.  Recent investments, such as Toyota’s installation of solar panels at its Derbyshire plant, are leading a reduction in production emissions.

Continuity of support is vital to foster market confidence, which is why SMMT is pleased with, among other initiatives, the renewed commitment to the Plug-in Car Grant and the extension of the grant to vans.  By the end of 2013 all UK volume car manufacturers will have an electric or plug-in hybrid model available for purchase, adding to those vehicles eligible for the grant.  We believe that the rate of grant uptake will quicken during the next 18 months as more consumer choice and confidence lead to greater market growth.  Longer term growth will also be stimulated by cost reductions. Battery cost estimates forecast a fall of 50%  by 2020.

The impact on manufacturing is positive with over £4 billion promised investment for the UK from global vehicle manufacturers during 2011, securing new model programmes, production facilities and jobs.  The automotive industry is a driving force in rebalancing the UK economy with low carbon and ultra-low carbon technology at the heart of developments.  In June 2011, Nissan confirmed an additional £420 million for the production of the Nissan LEAF and a stand-alone battery production facility.  Jaguar Land Rover announced £490 million to build the C-X75 hybrid supercar, creating 100 highly skilled jobs with plans for a further 1,000 production employees. BMW, Honda, JCB, Vauxhall, MG, Toyota, and Rolls-Royce are just some of those announcing investments in UK automotive manufacturing, securing and creating jobs.

Importantly, the UK has long had a strong reputation for R&D and design capability and the development of low carbon and electric technologies is leading to job creation here too. Tata has pledged to increase its Motors European Technical Centre in Warwick by 40%.  MIRA has announced an investment of £300 million for a facilities expansion that will create 2,000 jobs.  The recent announcement of a Transport Systems Catapult should further support the rapid design and deployment of innovate solutions.

The foundations are in place for the UK to realise its’ low carbon ambitions and maximise the benefit from the manufacture and use of EVs and low carbon vehicles, but, as with all new technologies, time is needed for the market to develop.  Long term confidence, consistency and procurement from government are needed, as is the continued investment commitment from industry. Together, this potent mix will ensure that the question is not whether EVs will become main-stream but when?

 For further details contact:

Samantha Larner
Innovation and E-Mobility Manager
Public Policy and Vehicle Legislation Team
The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders Limited
Tel: +44 (0)20 7344 9229  Mob: +44 (0)7809 522 185 Fax: +44 (0)20 7344 1675

 I- ICF International: ‘Assessment of Electric Vehicle and Battery Technology’ April 2011
 II- HSBC: ‘Sizing the Climate Economy’ Sept 2010
  Figure derived by taking UK parc figures for pure electric cars at end of Dec 2010 (154 cars) and March 2012 (1466 cars)
 IV- Axeon and Element Energy: ‘Cost and Performance of EV Batteries, Final Report for The Committee of Climate Change’ March 2012

Written by Paul Everitt
Tuesday, 01 May 2012 11:11

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