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  • BBC

UK could be left behind in the electric car race, warns report

The UK risks being left in the slow lane when it comes to building electric cars, according to a new report.

Influential green group Transport and Environment (T&E) says as recently as 2018, the UK produced roughly half of all electric cars built in Europe.

But it claims a lack of investment by UK manufacturers means that by the end of the decade that figure will have fallen to just 4%.

This comes at a time when the market is expanding rapidly.

As a result, the Brussels-based campaign group says that, despite being one of the first countries to outlaw the sale of new petrol and diesel cars, the UK will be almost wholly reliant on electric vehicles imported from abroad.

The market for electric cars remains relatively small, but it is growing rapidly, largely due to increasingly stringent emissions limits.

A number of European governments have already set targets for phasing out the sale of new petrol and diesel-powered vehicles, in their efforts to meet climate change targets.

The UK, which plans to ban the sale of most new cars with internal combustion engines by 2030, is among the most ambitious.

But according to the study by T&E, manufacturers based here are among the worst prepared for the change.

The race for electric vehicles

T&E's report is based on information compiled by industry data specialist IHS Markit, including the carmakers' own market and production forecasts.

It concludes that by 2030, battery-powered electric cars will account for 48% of production across the 27 countries of the EU and the UK. Plug-in hybrids will make up 11%.

However, it suggests that the difference in the way manufacturers have approached the transition means that the balance of power in the industry is expected to change.

Germany is expected to remain the dominant car producer in Europe. By 2030, its output is expected to increase from 4.5 million cars a year to 5.1 million - with half of them being electric.

But the UK, it says, will see output fall from its pre-Covid level of 1.3 million cars a year to just 1 million - and only 24% are expected to be battery-powered electric vehicles.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT), which represents the automobile industry, strongly refutes T&E's conclusions.

"The accusation that UK car makers are not preparing for the shift to electrification is utter nonsense," SMMT's chief executive Mike Hawes told the BBC.

"The UK was home to the first mass-produced electric vehicle in Europe, almost one in four cars made here this year have been either battery electric or hybrid, and British brands have publicly committed to be amongst the first anywhere to be fully electric."

He added that independent forecasts showed the UK was ramping up its production of electric vehicles and that it would be able to meet the government's net zero 2030 ambitions.

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