Warnings issued over effect UK petrol and diesel ban will have on industry and power suppliers

28 July 2017

28 July 2017

The UK’s plan to ban the sale of petrol and diesel vehicles by 2040 has been poorly received by the chief marketing officer of Aston Martin, who argues that the plans will seriously affect niche British car manufacturers. 

′Legislation without the required support that you see in Germany, that you see in China, that you see in Japan, that you see in Korea, is potentially hazardous to the future of our domestic industry,’ Aston Martin Chief Marketing Officer Simon Sproule said. 

Britain is to follow France in the ban on sales of vehicles with conventional internal combustion engines within 23 years, meaning manufacturers will only be able to market hybrid and electric vehicles (EVs). However, Sproule believes that without investment in the transition to zero-emission technology, the UK will simply become an importer of batteries.  

However, even with help, a future of producing electric vehicles could pose a challenge for smaller manufacturers, including sports car makers Aston Martin, McLaren Automotive and Morgan, especially as certain characteristics of these vehicles, such as their aggressive exhaust notes, would be lost.  

Aston Martin will test whether its customers are willing to pay for a battery-powered model when it rolls out the all-electric RapidE in 2019. And by 2040, the Gaydon, England-based manufacturer plans to offer a zero-emissions variant of all of its models, but ‘electric vehicles won’t work in every situation for every consumer,’ Sproule said. 

While producing vehicles for UK roads, British manufacturers will still need to develop petrol and diesel engines for overseas markets. Aston Martin CEO Andy Palmer, speaking to the Financial Times, adds: ′The entire British car industry is deeply rooted in gasoline and diesel. The UK excels at premium and luxury cars, from Bentley and Rolls-Royce to Aston Martin and McLaren. But luxury car buyers around the world in 2040 will still require gasoline engines. If your home market suddenly bans gasoline, then really practically speaking, where are we going to test the things?’ 

In the Queens Speech, the UK Government did outline plans to make the UK a ′centre of excellence’ for both electric and autonomous vehicles, however the need for investment in infrastructure in order to meet any demand of EVs in the future will need to begin almost immediately, in order to start the transition period and build consumer confidence.  

However, in the meantime, technology and skills will need to be brought in from abroad, a fact seen in the announcement that the new electric Mini will be built in Oxford, with powertrains imported from BMW facilities in Germany. However, with the UK potentially leaving the single market when it completes Brexit negotiations in 2019, the cost of vehicles could increase as imported parts are subject to tariffs. In addition, the government also looks likely to end free movement for EU citizens. Without a dedicated battery centre and EV education development, the country could see prices spiral while investment in UK Automotive falls. 

Meanwhile, the National Grid, which looks after the UK’s electricity infrastructure, has welcomed the plans, but added that the Government and industry now face big decisions on how the extra power is provided and demand is managed.  

The Grid recently warned that, by 2030, electric cars could require 3.5-8GW″¯of additional capacity on top of the current peak demand of 60GW. By comparison, the nuclear power station being built at Hinkley Point in Somerset will add 3.2GW of capacity to the system. It also believes that by 2050, when it is assumed almost all cars will be electric, that extra peak demand could be up to 18GW. 

The lowest estimates of extra demand assume that drivers charge their cars at off-peak times. Smart meters and time-of-day tariffs could incentivise owners to charge when wind and solar power are plentiful and electricity is cheaper. 

A report by the Green Alliance has already revealed that serious investment is needed in the UK power grid to ensure that it can cope with the expected influx of EVs and plug-in hybrids.