The Government is being urged to introduce measures to ensure the future of the UK’s vehicle manufacturing industry and help drivers make the switch to electric.
In a new report - ‘Full Throttle: Driving UK Automotive Competitiveness’, the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) says that the shift to electric vehicles (EVs) is the biggest challenge facing the sector.
The report calls for a ‘Build Back Better Fund’, 60GW/h of gigafactory capacity and 2.3 million charge points by 2030 to help support market transition.
According to the report, the gigafactories would give British manufacturers the capability to produce up to one million EVs a year and ensure tariff free access to critical markets in the EU.
The SMMT said the measures would ensure all drivers – especially those without driveways – have the confidence to invest in the latest zero emission technologies.
The investment will ‘underpin’ mass market automotive manufacturing in the UK and help deliver its climate change and air quality goals, says the SMMT.
Mike Hawes, SMMT chief executive, said: “The next few years represent a critical period for the sector.
“The pace of technological change is accelerating and the competition more ferocious.
“If we are to secure vehicle manufacturing in this country, with all the benefits to society that it brings, decisions need to be made today.”
There is currently one EV battery manufacturing facility, Envision AESC's plant in Sunderland, that powers the Nissan Leaf - it has an output of around 2GW/h.
The Japanese carmaker is expected to announce later this week a major investment in a new gigafactory in the North East, which will initially have a capacity of at least 6.5GW/h.
Vauxhall owner Stellantis is expected to announce within the next few weeks whether its plant at Ellesmere Port will have a long-term future. It has been considering whether to build electric cars at the factory in Cheshire.
Alison Jones, the UK managing director of Stellantis suggested a decision by the company about where it will build a new gigafactory in Europe was central to its discussions with the Government about the plant's future, which she said were "ongoing".
"That's why it's so important for the Government to make their statements and their actual investments in UK manufacturing manufacturing", she said.
Speaking at the SMMT’s annual international automotive summit today (June 29) alongside Jones, Hawes argued that the automotive sector is uniquely placed to help the Government deliver on its agenda; to level up, deliver net zero and trade globally.
“The Government has made clear its support for the sector in its negotiations with Europe, so now is the time to go full throttle and take bold action to support one of Britain’s most important industries,” said Hawes.
A spokeswoman for the Government said: "We are committed to ensuring the UK continues to be one of the best locations in the world for automotive manufacturing and are dedicated to securing gigafactories to support the auto sector's transition to electric vehicles.
"We continue to work closely with investors and vehicle manufacturers to progress plans to mass produce batteries in the UK.
"We are working closely with local authorities to rollout the electric vehicle revolution, with £1.3 billion investment for electric vehicle infrastructure which will support drivers across the country.”
Focus on speed, location, ease of use and incentives
ChargePoint, the EV charging network, said that EV charge point installation shouldn’t focus on installing a large concentration of stations, but focus on speed, location, ease of use and incentives.
Tanya Sinclair, policy director UK and Ireland at ChargePoint, said: “More still needs to be done regarding cross industry collaboration to make current charging stations more accessible for drivers.
“The answer to this is a fully interoperable, peer-to-peer roaming solution and charging stations that are designed with integrated contactless payments and ease of use in mind.
“EV charging solutions must effortlessly fit into consumers' everyday lives to achieve mass adoption.
“As well as this, to achieve our 2030 target, the Government must provide a long-term package of consistent incentives to signal to consumers what vehicles to buy - this needs to be sustainable, for example a system of purchase incentives and tax levers, but this must always incentivise battery EVs over ICE.”