More power to UK, say 'leccy vehicle makers. Seriously, they need it

Infrastructure issues drove one firm to produce cars in Austria

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A lack of power remains a problem to electric car manufacturers in the UK – with one unnamed maker setting up shop in Austria over Blighty due to a dearth of capacity, MPs heard today.

Speaking in front of the Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Committee, David Wong, senior technology and innovation manager at the Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, named infrastructure as a major challenge in the UK.

He said that included facilities related to market take-up, such as having the correct plug-in connectors for electric vehicles in the right places – rather than just sheer quantity. Wong said the UK already has a lot, with 15,000 plug-in places for EVs.

Another issue is industrial infrastructure, he said, citing the choice of one unnamed manufacturer to build its cars in Austria.

"There were many reasons for that decision, but one of the major [ones] was because, quite perversely, there wasn't enough power in the place where they manufacture the vehicles."

Last month the committee heard that UK postal service Royal Mail considered shifting its fleet of small vans in London to electric vehicles but concluded that doing so would lead to a power meltdown at its central hub in the capital.

Wong said issues around affordability and "range anxiety" were also holding the market back.

He said half of the cost of producing an electric vehicle came from producing the battery – with companies such as Panasonic, Samsung and LG leading the market.

"The UK should look at which bit of the design we are good at and where the highest value is" and source lower-value elements from elsewhere, he added.

Des Quinn, national officer at Unite the Union, said the £500m set aside in the last budget by the UK government "goes nowhere in catching up with the £6bn Obama put into America and gets us nowhere near what is happening in China or Germany". ®


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