The UK’s plan to build more electric cars could be at risk because of the sector’s reliance on Chinese imports.
The warming came from AGM Batteries, a Scottish company that produces lithium ion batteries for electric vehicles, after figures revealed that British manufacturing output has grown at the fastest rate in 10 months.
The solid performance, however, came with warnings, including that supply chains are being affected by the coronavirus outbreak in China.
Numerous car makers — including Jaguar Land Rover, which has three factories in the UK — face a halt to production lines in the coming weeks as Chinese factories remain shut.
In early February, Fiat Chrysler warned that one of its European plants would be forced to stop production in weeks as it struggles to source key parts from Chinese suppliers.
Toyota, Hyundai, Volvo and Peugeot have expressed concern about how the coronavirus will affect production lines.
In the UK, where Prime Minister Boris Johnson plans to ban certain light vehicles to help reduce carbon emissions, disruption to the supply chain for electric cars caused concern in the automotive industry, especially as he suggested the ban could come even before 2035.
Kevin Brundish, chief executive of AGM Batteries, warned that the UK must prioritise the creation of a domestic full-cycle supply chain to meet growing demand for electric vehicles and energy storage, instead of relying on overseas manufacturers.
“The electrification of vehicles is a crucial factor in achieving the UK’s carbon-neutral 2050 targets…” he said, adding that to meet demand for electric vehicle batteries, the country will need the equivalent of eight 15 gigawatt hour factories by 2040.
“It is costly and increases carbon footprint to have these batteries imported.”
The UK has pledged to reach net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Its proposed ban on the sale of new petrol, diesel and hybrid cars from 2035 would leave electric cars as the only option for drivers.
But while manufacturers plan more than 350 electric models by 2025 — mostly small-to-medium vehicles— the International Energy Agency (IEA) said last year that consumers are buying ever larger and less fuel-efficient cars, known as sport utility vehicles (SUVs).
It said there are more than 200 million SUVs around the world, up from 35 million in 2010, noting that they were responsible for all of the 3.3 million barrels per day of growth in oil demand from passenger cars between 2010 and 2018.
The Paris-based agency said SUVs were the second-largest contributor to the increase in global carbon dioxide emissions since 2010 after the power sector, but ahead of heavy industry (including iron and steel, cement and aluminium), trucks and aviation.
“If consumer appetite for SUVs continues to grow at a similar pace seen in the last decade, SUVs would add nearly 2 million bpd in global oil demand by 2040,” the IEA said.