Can electric cars save Britain’s motor industry?

The motor industry is having a hard time at the moment, with excess capacity not only in Britain but also across the world. Coupled with the move away from diesel and towards cleaner propulsion systems, political uncertainty and buyers holding off making purchasing decisions as they wait to see what happens has led to a slump in the overall demand for new cars.

Sales have fallen in the US and China, which represent the second and third largest markets for British carmakers. The fall in China is the first for over 20 years. Part of this is driven by moves to legislate the end of sales of new diesel and petrol vehicles, which is currently set for 2040 in the UK.

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Silver lining

While this switch to electric propulsion is good for the environment, it could also provide a much-needed boost to the car industry. A good deal of the new investment that is being made in the sector is in electric vehicles.

The Nissan Leaf and hybrid versions of the Toyota Corolla are already built here, with BMW set to build an electric version of the Mini. Switching to building electric cars and the batteries to power them could deliver a bright future for the sector.

The carmakers are not the only ones to benefit from such a switch; for example, an injection moulding company such as and other firms producing components for car making will also be boosted.

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A large-scale switch to electric propulsion requires work to the infrastructure. More fast charging points will be needed and work needs to progress on technologies such as contactless charging, which is where the car is parked over an induction pad.

Taking a longer view, it may be that battery technology is only a short-term solution for vehicles anyway. Work on alternatives such as hydrogen fuel cells, which enable cars to generate their own electricity on the move, is already progressing; however, this too will require changes to the infrastructure for refuelling. Whatever the technology, power generation will need to be addressed. Lots of electric cars will need more generating capacity, with extracting hydrogen also needing electricity.

Electric vehicles may save the motor industry, but this can only happen if the wider economy can adapt to an electric future.

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