UK set to miss net-zero goals without battery innovation
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The Government is not doing enough to meet its aim of reaching net-zero carbon emissions by 2050, particularly with regards to the development of battery technology, the House of Lords Science and Technology Select Committee has said.
In a report on the subject, it said the UK was failing to make the most of its expertise in fuel cells and next-generation batteries, increasing the risk that the domestic automotive industry could fall behind its global competitors. The Committee added that it was “alarmed” by the 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 and facing significant challenges with innovation, supply chains and skills.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for the government and research funders, in order to protect the UK’s automotive sector and develop a competitive advantage in fuel cells and next-generation batteries.
It called for Government support to develop UK supply chains and secure raw materials for battery manufacture ahead of UK-EU ‘Rules of Origin’ requirements coming into force in 2027, which could cause some manufacturing to move to the EU.
Ensuring the automotive sector has sufficiently skilled workers for its transition from mechanical to electrical technology was deemed a top priority in the report, including through training, upskilling and immigration. It also called for increased funding for the development of next-generation batteries, to allow the UK to “leapfrog” its competitors and gain a manufacturing advantage.
The Committee said that the acceleration of the expansion of the public charging network was a top priority, adding that an additional 325,000 charging points would be needed by 2032, including rapid chargers in towns and on the strategic road network. A previous report suggested that an additional three million charging points will need to be installed at commercial and industrial sites by 2040 for the UK’s electric vehicle market to truly thrive.
The Committee said that phasing out the sale of new diesel HGVs sooner could spur innovation and uptake of low-carbon technologies and hydrogen strategy should be published urgently to give clarity to hauliers and bus operators about whether to invest in fuel cell vehicles.
Commenting on the report, the committee’s chair, 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. 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.”
Earlier this month, MPs on the Environmental Audit Committee warned that hopes for large Tesla-style electric vehicle battery factories in the UK may not come to fruition without increased financial support.
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