A third of British made cars are now electrified, with more plug-in vehicles expected to be registered this year than in the last decade combined.1 However, if the sector – and society – is to achieve net zero on the back of British manufacturing, then some key challenges must be met.
Speaking at the 104th SMMT Annual Dinner, SMMT president and chairman Dr George Gillespie OBE, said: “We have invested billions in designing some of the most amazing electrified vehicles – over 115 zero emission capable vehicle models are for sale in the UK right now.
"We have inspired the public to buy these exciting vehicles in numbers never seen before, but here is the twist. It is so frustrating to find broken chargers, blocked chargers, multiple apps, confusing payment schemes. This is quickly going to turn a lot of people off electric vehicles and all our work in developing these fantastic vehicles will be wasted.”
The SMMT says manufacturers are firmly committed to decarbonise cars and vans by 2035 but significant challenges remain. The global shortage of semiconductors is decimating production output and leading to delays in customer deliveries.
The UK manufacturing sector it adds is also hindered by high energy prices, uncompetitive business rates and additional trade costs compared to its competitors in Europe and beyond.
Long-term strategies are needed to address these deficiencies, and close collaboration between industry and government will be critical if the industry is to remain internationally competitive. Given that automotive manufacturing produces Britain’s most valuable export good and employs some 155,000 people in highly skilled, well-paid jobs across the country, the importance of retaining this sector is obvious.
Dr Gillespie continued: “We need access to skilled staff. We need free access to markets. We need the right government incentives to develop new technologies and continue to lead the world and help to deal with rising transport and energy costs.”
The SMMT says one of the major advantages of the UK is the size of its new car and van market – the second-largest in Europe – and that UK consumers embrace new technology. A vibrant and healthy new car and vehicle market is essential as it creates and sustains jobs, delivers enormous receipts to government and is essential to the achievement of Britain’s net-zero target.
The SMMT adds it is essential we maintain this strong market as we transition to new types of mobility, but the infrastructure to power this transition is not keeping pace.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “This industry does ‘delivery’. We will decarbonise road transport – cars by 2035, buses likely earlier, HGVs likely only a bit later. But as electric vehicle sales race ahead, on-street charging infrastructure is increasing slowly.
"We look to government to create the conditions – maybe mandate the conditions – to accelerate the infrastructure across the country as we need others to match our speed.”