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September 26, 2023

UK's Electric Vehicle Transition Faces Speed Bump as Prime Minister Responds

UK prime minister's recent move to prolong the ban on internal combustion engine vehicles has ignited a firestorm of dissent

In the race towards a greener, electric future for the UK's roads, automakers have found themselves at a crossroads, and their frustration is palpable. A 2030 ban on the sale of new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and vans, a crucial milestone in the nation's pursuit of carbon neutrality by 2050, seemed set in stone. However, mounting opposition and social media backlash directed at British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak prompted a surprising change of course. The ban is now being nudged just slightly down the road.

The United Kingdom initially announced its ambitious 2030 ICE ban in 2020, positioning itself to become a global leader in decarbonizing road transport. Electric vehicles (EVs) were expected to account for nearly 18% of new car registrations in the UK by the end of this year, a remarkable leap from a mere 0.7% in 2018, according to the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT). In fact, SMMT's research indicates that two-thirds of UK drivers are eager to embrace electric vehicles, but they face barriers such as a lack of incentives and charging infrastructure. An astounding 9 in 10 drivers who've made the switch to EVs express no desire to return to conventionally fueled vehicles.

To prepare for the 2030 deadline, automakers have poured billions into electrifying their fleets. The certainty of the ICE ban's start date drove these monumental investments, impacting everything from vehicle development to factory upgrades and workforce training. The expectation was that once the ICE ban was in effect, demand for EVs would skyrocket.

However, the recent decision to postpone the ban has left automakers like Ford and BMW disheartened. Ford UK chair Lisa Brankin expressed her disappointment, emphasizing the industry's need for government commitment and consistency in supporting the transition. Ford had committed to investing $50 billion globally in electrification, including significant investments in UK facilities.

BMW, in the midst of a £600 million government-backed investment to produce electric MINIs in the UK, echoed the need for clarity and consistency in EV policies.

Stellantis, fresh from a £100 million investment in its UK plant for EV production, reiterated its commitment to achieving 100% zero-emission vehicle sales by the end of the decade.

The Tata Group has committed over £4 billion to construct a UK gigafactory to supply batteries, reducing reliance on imports.

Neil Hodgson Coyle
Neil Hodgson-Coyle
Editorial chief at TechNews180
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