Currently reading: The road to 2030: How the UK must prepare for an EV revolution
The ban on new petrol and diesel cars will transform UK motoring on a scale never seen before. This in-depth analysis looks at how it can be achieved
Autocar
News
5 mins read
1 February 2021

Last year, one in 10 new cars offered for sale in the UK was electrified. This represented a mighty jump from the previous year’s one in 30 and dwarfed the 2015 figure of one in 200. Green car advocates were delighted.

However, a landmark decision reached by the government during 2020 – to ban sales of all new internal combustion engine (ICE) cars and most hybrids by 2030 – made it shockingly clear that all recent EV gains were chicken feed. To meet legislators’ new targets, sales of battery-electric vehicles and plugin hybrids will need to expand from today’s 150,000 to around 2.4 million in just nine years, a rise of 1500%. It was – is – a staggering demand with unprecedented implications.

In nine years’ time, everyone who buys a new car will have to make it electric – either purely battery-electric, hygrogen fuel cell or (until 2035) a heavily battery-biased plug-in hybrid – because the government has decided that such cars provide the best and quickest means of cutting toxic air pollution in cities and of reducing the greenhouse gases, mainly CO2, currently heating the earth’s atmosphere to dangerous levels.

It’s undoubtedly the most radical, universal, draconian and expensive alteration to the direction of automobile design in history. Demands for improvements to car safety engineering and engine emissions – both headline-grabbers of the 1970s and 1980s – pale into insignificance compared with what lies ahead.

Huge new questions arise. Will the cars of 2030 fulfil our transportation needs? Will they be desirable enough to buy? Can car buyers be educated to ‘get’ EVs in time? Will there be enough electric power and enough charging points to go around? What will happen to the ICE cars that populate our roads in 2030 and a decade thereafter?

For the past couple of months, we at Autocar have been compiling these burning questions (helped by practical enquiries from concerned readers) and chasing answers from experts – nailing down the specifics where possible and pointing to the clear and urgent knowledge gaps where not. Here’s the story so far…

Deep dive issues

The state of today's technology, and what's needed for the future: Lighter, more powerful batteries are the focus but tech like ultracapacitors has a part to play too

What will the cars of 2030 be like? Expect evolution rather than revolution though EV architecture will offer greater flexibility of layout and design

Understanding the legislation behind the 2030 ban: the Johnson government needs to formulate a fuel tax replacement

The other issues we face

Just how much electric power will we need? Electricity demand peaked in the UK in 2005 - it's been falling ever since.

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Can all our power rewquirements be from renewables? Wind power in particular has the potential to meet the government's energy targets.

How will the National Grid cope, and are blackouts a risk? The short answer is "probably not"

How many electric car charging points will we need, and what kind? Public charging providers have plans to introduce many more rapid charging facilities.

What's the solution for EV owners without home charging points? Street lamps could be key to expanding on-street charging.

What investment is promised by the government, and is it enough? Currently a Pod Point wallbox costs from £449 after government grant.

What will charging cost the consumer? Right now, charge costs vary wildly depending on where and how quickly you charge an EV in public.

Will businesses come to the UK to achieve clean air targets set elsewhere? Acting first to build a lead in knowledge and skills vital to have success.

Will the UK's CO2 reduction targets make any difference to global pollution levels? Truly significant reductions in emissions depend on similarly green action from China and the US.

Are the UK's clean air targets realistic and achievable? Both reducing existing emissions and removing greenhouse gases are critical if the gov't's ambitious targets are to be met.

Can the UK really be a leader in electrification? While we can't compete with larger economies like China on scale, the UK can and does punch above its weight.

A counterpoint to the road to 2030: Our obsession with EVs risks smothering other solutions to reduce CO2 emissions

Where do we go from here?

Never in the annals of Autocar investigations has such an exhaustive document come up with so many open questions. The 2030 change to EVs (says one office wit) is tantamount to telling a population, only 10% of whom speak Chinese, that Mandarin will be the nation’s lingua franca in nine years’ time.

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However, if you look at the bigger picture, our research has turned up many positives. First, car manufacturers are already showing not only that they can make the cars to do the 2030 job but also that they can make them desirable – a vital quality. Second, the technology is rapidly advancing to meet our ever more sophisticated needs: many pundits now say that by 2030, new battery technology will have greatly reduced our concerns about range, charging speed, weight, cost, ‘dirty’ manufacturing and battery degradation.

Car traction batteries may by then be playing a vehicle-to-grid role in storing renewable energy that is presently wasted. And we now know that the National Grid can provide the extra energy we will need: “This is bread and butter to us” was the reassuring quote.

But if the players in the electric car orchestra seem reassuringly willing and able, serious concerns must be expressed about the capabilities of the conductor: the government. As yet, there appears to be no minister with deep knowledge of the subject or responsibility for overseeing the huge changes ahead. Some politicians don’t even know, as you will have read, the difference between a hybrid and a battery-electric car. That’s alarming and depressing.

Funds so far allocated to develop a national charging infrastructure – whose poor performance is continually revealed as the main reason open-minded car users haven’t committed to EVs in greater numbers – look inadequate. Vital detail around the 2030 decision, such as what kind of plug-in hybrid can be sold legally beyond 2030, simply isn’t available.

It’s as if the government, having enjoyed a period of preening itself for blindly making a bold decision, is now content to allow all supporting decisions to emerge from chaos. Autocar sincerely hopes that it won’t be like that. But time is short – and shortening – for our legislators to get a grip.

READ MORE

Official: Government to ban new petrol and diesel car sales in 2030

The UK's 2030 petrol and diesel ban: Autocar’s response

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Strider 2 February 2021

Very interesting articles and well-informed comments. My conclusion is that EV adoption is being forced on us before the technology is ready and that many of the challenges presented are based on today's technology, rather than the technology of 2030. Higher energy densities and improved utilisation, smart charging and load balancing will solve grid spike issues, but with fast charging we'll have more of a 'filling station + coffee chop + convenience store' type refuelling network not unlike today's petrol stations, so the need for people to rush home to grab a parking space next to a lampost that dispences electrical energy will disapear. Unless you have what will then be an older EV that won't accept a fifteen minute charge. The big question not covered is, does the questionable whole-life environmental performance of EVs justify the label 'green vehicle' and what are we going to do to improve this situation? With the focus currently on rushing to force EVs into mass production, this vital question is being ignored and as we know, ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.

Torque Stear 2 February 2021
Strider wrote:

Very interesting articles and well-informed comments. My conclusion is that EV adoption is being forced on us before the technology is ready and that many of the challenges presented are based on today's technology, rather than the technology of 2030. Higher energy densities and improved utilisation, smart charging and load balancing will solve grid spike issues, but with fast charging we'll have more of a 'filling station + coffee chop + convenience store' type refuelling network not unlike today's petrol stations, so the need for people to rush home to grab a parking space next to a lampost that dispences electrical energy will disapear. Unless you have what will then be an older EV that won't accept a fifteen minute charge. The big question not covered is, does the questionable whole-life environmental performance of EVs justify the label 'green vehicle' and what are we going to do to improve this situation? With the focus currently on rushing to force EVs into mass production, this vital question is being ignored and as we know, ignoring a problem doesn't make it go away.

Just to update:

The whole life emissions of EVs issue was mostly due to think tanks funded by automotive and oil interests.

These studies assumed batteries were made in China, used lots of energy and that energy was supplied by coal.

Current figures for CO2 released producing a Model 3 (14 tonnes of CO2) is basically the same as for a comparable saloon.

The materials in EVs are pretty normal, there is actually only a few kgs of lithium or cobalt in a 500kg battery. Rare earth metals are neither rare, nor are they essential for EVs and less than a kg is needed for an automotive motor.

Getting CO2 out of materials production is a challenge that goes beyond the pay grade of automotive.

Strider 2 February 2021

Most of what you say is correct, except the opening statement. When the European Comission spends a high six figure sum on a study from independent specialists who have no commercial interest in any particular conclusion, it's worth reading. When an EV manufacturer comes up with similar findings as part of looking into how they can make their environmental credentials better and more transparent, it's worth pondering on their findings. Just to dismiss the whole life topic as 'oh, funded by oil companies, what do you expect,' is like Trump believing something is a fact just because he says it is. Our industry has been very successful at tackling exhaust emissions. Look at how much cleaner a Euro 6 car is compared with even a Euro 4 car. Euro 7 is going to be astonishing. That wouldn't have happened without public pressure for cleaner exhausts. If we just pretend the whole life issue doesn't exist because you want your to believe your EVs are as pure as the driven snow, we won't have the rate of improvement we would if there was public and government understanding and the rate of environmental improvement will be significantly slower than if we could see beyond the lack of a taipipe.

Jakehig 1 February 2021

The Grid representative may sound reassuring but they have issued 3 or 4 margin alerts (whatever they are called) in the past couple of months and market prices spiked to £4000 per MWh recently. That's not at all reassuring.

The target of 40 GW of offshore wind will, if they hit it, just about replace the nuclear and coal capacity that is scheduled to retire by 2010 (taking account of capacity factors). There's one big difference: those old plants are dispatchable - they run when called upon; wind doesn't, as the long lulls around Christmas showed. So how will extra demand be met? Remember that much domestic heating and hot water are supposed to switch to electricity as well.

Interconnectors will depend on there being surplus power available from Europe which is far from certain.

A few years back the head of the Grid (Steve Holliday?) gave a speech when he stepped down in which he said we should get ready for a big change in the supply of electricity. Instead of being supplied when needed, as now, it will be supplied when available.  'Nuff said.

Torque Stear 2 February 2021
Jakehig wrote:

The Grid representative may sound reassuring but they have issued 3 or 4 margin alerts (whatever they are called) in the past couple of months and market prices spiked to £4000 per MWh recently. That's not at all reassuring.

The target of 40 GW of offshore wind will, if they hit it, just about replace the nuclear and coal capacity that is scheduled to retire by 2010 (taking account of capacity factors). There's one big difference: those old plants are dispatchable - they run when called upon; wind doesn't, as the long lulls around Christmas showed. So how will extra demand be met? Remember that much domestic heating and hot water are supposed to switch to electricity as well.

Interconnectors will depend on there being surplus power available from Europe which is far from certain.

A few years back the head of the Grid (Steve Holliday?) gave a speech when he stepped down in which he said we should get ready for a big change in the supply of electricity. Instead of being supplied when needed, as now, it will be supplied when available.  'Nuff said.

Sort of; there may be a little more nuance.

It won't be like the 70's with the grid dropping off all the time.

One of the methods of building the grid would be that it is massively overbuilt with relatively cheap renewables, interconnectors and a backbone of nuclear.

We have enough capacity to cover essential domestic, industrial and public service needs (~20GW). However in the process we have built a grid that is routinely capable of delivering much more energy (60-80GW).

This excess energy would potentially be very cheap, this would be what most cars would be charged with. 100 miles of range takes about 3 hours of charging and most users won't notice when the car charges provided it does it between 6pm and 8 am.

So in exchange for very cheap power and using much more of it users would accept intermittancy.

The Colonel 2 February 2021

Margin Notices don't do what I think you think they do.  They are not used to sound a red alert that the UK is in imminent danger of blackouts.  It's a long way from that.  The notices are issued, typically, when National Grid know there will be a squeeze on margin, more often than not due to a foreseen issue - facility downtime, poor weather, damage on the grid somewhere.  They are issued for a 24 hour period to prevent speculation and therefore unbalancing future prices for supply.  They are a listed company and have to provide such notices.  A similar action to how Ferrari announced restarting production after lockdown (and Matt Saunders got very huffy about):  these are legal requirements, for listed companies, not niceties.

The market price spiked to £4K/MWh when Tier 4 was announced for London and many areas of  the south-east.  Price spikes happen, that was not the worst, and it receeded as quickly as it came.  This is markets.  Controls smooth prices though.  A spike like that doesn't mean that consumer costs are somehow at risk and, even if they were, they would also be for the refiners and retailers of fuel too.

I'm not sure where you get 40Gw as to "just about replace nuclear and coal capacity" from.  Both currently supply approx 16Gw, with a 2/3 and 1/3 split and while coal will be phased out entirely by 2025, Hinkley Point C will provide 3.3Gw when it comes online in 23, and Moorside and Sizewell C provide the same amount, each, with Sizewell coming online around 2030.  Moorside TBC.  There's no suggestion that wind has to compensate for a loss of coal and nuclear.  In terms of energy mix the biggest issue is the amount of gas that is imported which is currently slightly more than half consumed, representing around 20% of current electricity production.

The interconnectors are not there just to get the UK out of trouble when lights start going out.  The current connections are with France, Belgium, the Netherlands.  Soon to be with Norway and a second with France is planned too.  These are market tools as well as practical.  They allow suppliers to buy certain types of electricity for the future at certain prices.  It's what allows companies like Octopus to promise "100% Green" electricity as they are able to tap into the renewable production of electricity across Europe, not just with the countries the UK is interconnected with.  In respect of Margin Notices, when issued - by any connected national grid - the other parties are contractually obliged to declare what spare capacity they have and make it available.

Finally, you've misunderstood what Steve Holliday was saying.  He wasn't providing a doom filled glimpse of the future, but discussing how the future of electricity production and supply will become decentralised and democratised allowing consumers to decide how much power they want/need, when and, to some extent, how much they will pay for it. 

 

 

 

Just Saying 1 February 2021
None of us have a crystal ball (apart from Peter - just joking) but what might be a typical charge time for the typical EV by 2030?
This question is surely the most important one as regards charge point installations.
Best guesses please?
Strider 2 February 2021

15 minutes. Quick enough to make some sort of petrol station type model the way forward, with charging linked to a coffee shop, convenience stores, etc. Having pondered on this a lot and talked to many vehicle electrification specialists, my conclusion is that the need for mass on-street charging will dissapear over the next two model cycles. The problem then will be the resale value of vehicles that can't accept fast charging. Just like the poor whole life environmental impact of EVs, charging infrastructure is a problem being created by forcing mass adoption before the technology is ready.

Just Saying 2 February 2021
Interesting conclusions you reach Strider. Hopefully, or altimately the gains will in some small way compensate the inevitable waste to come. The one step forward two back springs to mind.