Skip to main content

Blog Innovate UK

Innovate UK
Innovate UK

What do we need for electric vehicles to be a success in the UK?

Posted by: , Posted on: - Categories: ISCF, Support

The 2040 trajectory for electric vehicles (EV)

With the recent government announcement to ban the sale of conventional internal combustion engine vehicles from 2040 the transport stage has now been set for significant disruptive change.

2040 is a long way away of course and the number of plugin (battery and plugin hybrid vehicles) on the road is still only 100,000 or so versus a UK car pool of some 30m vehicles but this market has a solid foothold and is growing rapidly.

As a result, there is an emerging landscape of extraordinary opportunity for innovation, with extremely diverse stakeholders that all need to embrace change to give win-win outcomes for all parties.

electric vehicle charging points

Big change for vehicles and energy

The first obvious change is for vehicle manufacturers, which, I would argue, are facing the biggest change that they have ever experienced; bigger even than when Henry Ford introduced the moving car assembly line concept in 1913.

Secondly, our electricity system, which is already managing significant change with the growth of intermittent renewable energy, will have its biggest challenge (and greatest opportunity) yet with the ascendance of electric vehicles.

Electricity and transport sectors depend on one another

But, both the automotive and electricity sectors are big beasts that have evolved happily on their own for the last 100+ years, with completely different business needs and investment cycles but for the for the first time have a strategic dependency on each other.

If you think of the 12 volt starter battery in a conventional car, even the smallest of EV batteries today contain around 25 times more energy, enough to power a homes for a two or three days, and this capacity is rising very quickly every new EV model. Electric vehicles are therefore very chunky packages of useful stored energy that we need to work in harmony with the electricity system in terms of how they are charged and how their energy is managed.

There is a “but” though, as we do of course have that most fickle of associated characteristics; namely “people” behind the wheel! How and where those people want to drive and park their vehicles is somewhat unpredictable!

electric vehicle charging socket

The win-win scenario for electric vehicles

The win-win goal is for EV users to have confidence in their vehicles range capability at the lowest cost and inconvenience, and for energy utilities to have as much visibility and influence over when, where and how much electric vehicle charging is needed for a given EV user at a given time.

With the right business models, pricing signals, flexible solutions, consents, user interfaces and joined up thinking this is achievable and will ultimately help to keep costs low for supporting infrastructure, ensure efficient energy system operation, and ultimately lower bills for all energy users.

Changing vehicle use

There are other factors in the changing landscape that are providing opportunities for new innovations in this domain:

  • Vehicle ownership and use is changing

80% of new privately used cars are “sold” under personal contract plans (PCPs), a figure that is believed to be more than 90% for EVs.  So cars are effectively being rented, moving us a step towards a mobility-as-a-service environment. This could encourage people to experiment in this domain where the asset is one that they do not own.

  • People’s use of and attitude to vehicles is changing

Car clubs, car rental companies offering EV options and car sharing are all growing, creating new ways of engaging car users with the plugin vehicle environment.

  • Autonomous driving technology is being developed and trialled which will change the dynamics even further.

electric vehicle parking space

Many parties are affected as electric vehicle growth increases

It isn’t just about vehicles and the power system though, as there are many facets to this domain that are going to connect and affect people and other stakeholders, such as:

  • Local authorities will have to embrace a world where every car will want to plug-in “somewhere at some point”, and facilitate this in harmony with existing systems for parking management, traffic management, street works, pedestrian safety management, emergency services, building and highway planning to name but a few
  • Data will be of great value to many organisations such charge point providers. In order to deliver a cost optimal and effective charging service information such as the intended journey of a car, the anticipated driving style of the driver, the traffic conditions on the onward journey and even the weather conditions ahead will be valued, as they all affect EV energy use and charging needs
  • And most importantly the EV users themselves and their experience! EV users will demand high quality seamlessly integrated experiences and interfaces for charging, parking and route planning as a minimum, and want their EV to work in smart ways with their smart homes.

To succeed we need a vision, and your help in shaping it

To catalyse this change, and help the UK be a world leader in this area, Innovate UK has worked in recent months with a number of stakeholders to draft a “2025 success vision”. It is a discussion document that lays out many of the future possible innovation needs and value propositions across this complex landscape and we have now published it here for anyone with interest or knowledge of this area to contribute or comment on.

This is just the beginning of a process though. We need your thoughts, insights and ideas to strengthen and build it into a broader shared vision.   We want to create a living document that will provide a rich pot of innovation needs and opportunities to inspire innovators, create a platform for stakeholders to discuss and communicate their respective needs, and provide a consolidated view of the outcomes we are collectively trying to achieve.

So, please do find half an hour to read and contribute to this vision.  I think you will find it a compelling read!

You can follow Mark on Twitter @markrmthompson

You can follow Innovate UK on:


Sharing and comments

Share this page


  1. Comment by Colin McLean posted on

    Government wants change therefore it must incentivize industry to provide cost effective ways to implement widespread access to home charge facilities and major improvements towards car scrappage and grants for hybrids/electric cars if they really want to get this thing going

  2. Comment by bk posted on

    The very first thing we need for electro-mobility to be a success is for people to understand what constitutes an electric vehicle. The author of this article evidently doesn't.

  3. Comment by C,Alvin Scott posted on

    I was not going to comment on this because I feel that there has already been a decision made about the direction, by the Auto makers and Fossil Fuel interests which are still controlling events. Innovation such as my Hydrogen Rotary Engine-generator concept, do not get fair treatment by those people making these decisions, who have been involved for decades in the industry, who to my mind are restricted by the established policy.

    Battery EVs and H2 Fuel Cell EVs face the need for monumental Trillion
    $/£ infrastructure costs for them to be successful replacements for IC engined vehicles.Obviously there are people with vested interests either option who are making claims and who ignore these major cost implications which will be passed to the consumer.

    The point made about consumers making use of PPS is a sign that people are changing there view on ownership, whilst I would argue that it is the lowest cost option for hard pressed UK families to have a means of reliable transport. Like a house, cannot afford to buy, move for the next best option.

    I would also take issue with the author ans others who glibly state that, "Internal Combustion Engines are being banned" . This clearly demonstrates that there are people in positions to influence decision making, who do not understand or are ignoring the fundamental problem.

    It is not the IC engine which is the problem, it is in fact the Hydrocarbon fuel being burnt which causes the CO2 emissions.
    The burning of Hydrocarbon fuels in Transport is one sector, Electricity Generation burns/combusts major quantities of Coal, Oil and Natural Methane Gas.
    In the rush to electric vehicles as "Clean" Low-carbon vehicles this is being ignored or twisted to advantage to have plug in BEVs. Yes initially it is an easy option the Grid is already there to tap into as a "fuel" supply. With the addition of millions of BEVs and especially BEHGVs the Grid will need substantial upgrades and major increases in generating capacity which will cost Trillions.

    Have all the options for clean transport been explored and is there a lower cost method of providing clean transport.

    I would suggest that Hydrogen Combustion offers an exceptionally low cost way to options of moving to Zero emissions in use transport, with ability to meet the timescale to mitigate Global Warming which is meaningful.

    Advanced Propulsion Centre UK. TDAP Technology Developer Accelerator Program. We have not accepted your Hydrogen Hybrid Rotary Engine-generator for the Program. It has not reached the TRL level required before we take projects up and "you are not focused enough".

    In the first instance, which is most important the development level attained or the potential which is demonstrated. It turns out that the first statement was made whilst accepting 5 new/improved engine design/projects and was simply sidelining a Hydrogen engine with potential for Zero emissions EVs at lower costs than Fuel Cells. That future potential was being ignored in preference to fund the development of petrol engines.

    The existing engine manufacturing industry as the capability to produce in the region of 40 to 50 million Hydrogen combustion engines. Even with that level of production it would take 20 years to change the over 1 billion road vehicles. The REALITY is that BEVs and H2 FCEVs manufacturing will take at least 10 years, working at full speed to build factories and new generating capacity etc to begin to manufacture numbers in the region of 40 million EVs per year.

    Whereas, if there was a Hydrogen Engine prototype in a years time, simply retooling the engine production lines would be all that is necessary to make the REAL start towards millions of Zero emissions EVs which would be affordable for people to buy.

    Not focused enough, is an absolute insult to someone who has arrived at a second version of a hydrogen rotary engine, even if it does not work. Other than an Online entry form these people have no knowledge of me what so ever and this statement is either a put down or they fail to grasp the situation that a Zero emissions Hydrogen Rotary Engine-generator will work easily as a means of taking houses Off-grid and making the house Zero emission as well.

    This is the kind of joined up thinking and wiser vision which is required in
    actually cutting Global CO2 emissions and not the narrow vision and single application which BEVs represents, when the people ignore or obfuscate the generation capacity debate.

    BEVs also ignores the fact that there are countries which do not have a Grid and these people are hardly aware of Hydrogen.

    Clearly the people who are pushing BEVs are ignoring the plight of millions of people, in much the same way that they have been ignored since the move from horse transport and candles/oil lamps over a hundred years ago.

    Global Warming is a worldwide problem, it will not stop until there is a Global answer and even then there is a need for the answer to be affordable or made available to everyone. There is a need to have changed business models which include a circular economy and that includes leaseholder ownership. Not because that is a choice by young people but by design to have low to Zero Carbon.

    I would have to say that this is by no means the complete arguement as my vision has included consumer owned Hydrogen production. That has also focused on Hydrogen production on board the EV with all the benefits which this will bring.

    Recently I became aware of just such a development by a Global Hydrogen Ambassador Group member in New Mexico US . Low-input, high output at 99.999% pure H2. Discussions are slow on using this in conjunction with combustion and my project since there is serious IP in question.

    This last paragraph demonstrate that people making decisions on the future of clean transport are not aware of what is taking place by individual innovators and the Open Funding Competition deny access to these people by the rules.

    The Global situation calls for any concept which shows promise of being zero emissions should be fully funded through to proof of concept of failure. To continue funding improvements to petrol engines whilst not moving hydrogen engines forwards has to be question as throwing monet away with the now stated demise of petrol and diesel powered vehicles.

  4. Comment by tony jackson posted on

    where I live housing is predominately Victorian terraced with on street parking, even the new housing development near me , the allocated parking spaces aren't outside the relevant house. so what gets me is, where would I plug in my vehicle which is parked on a busy street probably not exactly outside my house. cant see H+S ok'ing electric cables going over pavements. my commute to work is 92 miles a day on dual carriageways and motorways , and there is no on-site charging at work, if I have no home charger does this mean stopping on the way home for a 45 minute top up every day . there's an awful lot of infrastructure got to go in before EV's are the be it and end all of motoring , and I don't see anything happening on that front, apart from a lot of Tesla chargers at MSA's and the eurotunnel. surely before we start on the 'get rid of IC vehicles pdq', there ought to be more joined up thinking about how and where the things will be charged

  5. Comment by MarkT posted on

    1. Single payment ecosystem for EV charging. One app or one card for all charging point providers (like California or Ireland).
    2. Obligation for all businesses and councils to provide a % of all their car parking spaces to be EV charging which can ONLY be used by EVs. Start at 25% for new builds, 10% for existing premises within 3 years.
    3. Unrestricted ability to sell electricity into grid from domestic and/or community schemes. Currently an attempt by UK Gov to water this down.
    4. Much greater UK research funding for battery tech. Should be in the hundreds of £M.
    5. EV-only parking in urban areas, initially at reduced rate

  6. Comment by Jack posted on

    "80% of new privately used cars are “sold” under personal contract plans (PCPs), a figure that is believed to be more than 90% for EVs" - source of this data please, because I have read that it is more like 60%.