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An Electric Future: How The Automotive Industry Can Adapt to Achieve a £24 Billion Economic Boost

Earlier this month, the UK government announced its intention to bring forward a ban on the sale of diesel and petrol passenger cars and light commercial vehicles from 2040 to 2030, or 2035 for hybrids – putting further pressure on the UK automotive industry to increase electric vehicle production.

So, what does this mean in practice? Julian Hetherington, Director of Automotive Transformation at the Advanced Propulsion Centre (APC) comments: ‘As more car makers in the UK move to electrified powertrains, the demand for batteries will only strengthen. This means the UK needs to reduce its reliance on China, South Korea and Japan for cell supply and create its own robust supply chain.’

Research by the APC shows that the measures the UK takes now in developing new low-emission vehicles will define the country’s emissions output for nearly a quarter of a century. Identifying a ‘golden window’ for UK manufacturers to take advantage of a potential electrified vehicle supply chain market worth £24 billion over the next five years, the APC concludes that it will require sustained focus and investment during this time to maintain progress and establish the low-carbon vehicle sector as a significant contributor to the UK economy.

Hetherington continues: ‘At the APC we acknowledge the challenges facing the sector as it shifts its manufacturing processes from ICE to EV production. The government’s recent commitment to invest nearly £500 million to kickstart this transition is welcome news for the industry. The APC, through our Automotive Transformation Fund, will drive significant capital investment in the supply chain to support the delivery of a zero-carbon emissions future.’

However, it’s not just about investing in the manufacturing of batteries; continued investment in R&D will drive significant improvements in vehicle architecture and efficiency. For example, enabling faster charging and better energy density in batteries will reduce weight and thus decrease overall energy demands per km. Advances are also anticipated in electric motors, particularly in permanent magnet motors, as well as winding formations and electrical steel laminations to improve motor efficiency – optimised for propulsion and regeneration balance.  Further advances in inverters and specifically in new wide bandgap semiconductors such as silicon carbide and gallium nitride will also improve total driveline efficiency. Fuel cells too are expected to play a bigger part, especially for the duty cycle needs of heavier vehicles and buses.

Hetherington concludes: ‘The automotive industry is in a transitional phase for vehicle architecture – needing to accommodate many different types of power train. Designs will be optimised for electric vehicle technology, reducing transitional complexity which can only improve the supply chain’s overall efficiency. I think we will be looking back in just a few years’ time and be amazed at how fast the transition has happened.’

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