A report into batteries and fuel cells has concluded that the country is at risk of losing its automotive industry without a substantial battery tech strategy.
Carried out by the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee, the report stated that we could start “falling further behind global competitors” in battery manufacture, despite recent news of new battery gigafactories.
Without further investment in supply chains, training and research, the committee said, there is the “very real risk” that the manufacturing of batteries and vehicles will move overseas.
Urgent action has been called for to protect the UK’s automotive sector and increase the uptake of batteries and fuel cells.
The Committee said it was “alarmed” by the contrast and “apparent disconnect” between the optimism of Ministers about the UK’s prospects and the concerns raised by other witnesses who fear that the UK is lagging behind its competitors.
The report cites the UK Government’s current lack of battery and fuel cell adoption strategy, with a lack of investment in “next-generation” batteries. Competitor nations are supposedly already investing more heavily in lithium-ion batteries than the UK.
“However, the UK has a real opportunity to leapfrog to next-generation batteries, and achieve a competitive advantage in future,” the report stated.
“This would be dependent on the UK retaining its manufacturing capacity and automotive industry and providing substantial long-term support for research and scale-up.”
Acceleration of public charging network must be a “top priority” for Britain’s governments, the committee said, adding that 325,000 additionally charging points would be needed by 2032, including rapid chargers in towns and on the strategic road network.
Some progress has been made to invest in the country’s electric vehicles infrastructure. Earlier this year energy regulator Ofgem announced a multi-million-pound project to increase the number of electric charging stations on UK roads.
Ofgem said the funding will triple the current number of ultra-rapid charge points to 1,800, as well as adding further 1,750 charging stations in towns and cities.
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However, in March the Department for Transport revealed cuts to grants for electric vehicle uptake.
The Government said the cuts were due to the fact that higher-priced vehicles are “typically bought by drivers who can afford to switch without a subsidy from taxpayers”.
Just last week, the government was asked to act as data revealed that the number of electric vehicle charge points across Britain was low outside of London.
The Competition and Markets Authority (CMA) assessed whether the industry can deliver a “comprehensive” charging network that works efficiently.
Commenting on the latest report, Chair of the Committee, Lord Patel, said: “The Committee found that the Government’s ambition to reach net zero emissions is not matched by its actions. The Government must align its actions and rhetoric in order to take advantage of the great opportunity presented by batteries and fuel cells for UK research and manufacturing.
“The Government must act now to avoid the risk of the UK not only losing its existing automotive industry, but also losing the opportunity for global leadership in fuel cells and next-generation batteries.
Lord Patel added: “The Government must develop a coherent successor to the industrial strategy and promote its objectives clearly, both domestically and internationally, supported by investments commensurate with those of the UK’s international competitors.”