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.