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Innovate UK

The future of the car

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

vintage mobile phone


Rechargeable batteries have completely changed our lives in recent years. We look back and laugh at the brick phones from the late 1980s and early 90s along with the shoulder pads and the yuppie image that went with them.

The weight of the batteries was measured in kilogrammes, a single charge lasted a matter of minutes all this at a price virtually nobody could afford.

In under 30 years however, the world has been completely transformed by affordable ultra-thin devices with PC capability and high definition screens connected to the world over the air becoming the norm. The kids complain if the battery needs charging at the end of a day of continuous use.

Oh, and now the last thing it is is a phone.

Yellow and black transformer car

A similar transformation is happening in automotive

We are at the beginning of a very similar transformation in automotive. My background is in 32 years of Automotive Concept Design, Advanced Engineering and Research at Jaguar Land Rover and it’s antecedents. I had my first company mobile phone 13 years after I started!

Just as when what the mobile phone companies were selling in the shops bore no resemblance to what they were working on in their R&D labs, the same is true of automotive as we speak.

The revolution is underway.

A man in a child sized car with blazing wheels flies to the finish line and a chequered flag, another man is running behind him.

The UK has advantages in automotive

The difference for the UK is that , where the UK was not a noted manufacturer of Mobile Phones, it is a significant manufacturer of cars. 1.67 million of them in the past 12 months to be precise.

The UK is also a noted manufacturer of the technology that currently powers our cars. Approximately 2.5 million engines are manufactured in the UK each year.

If we assume that car production volumes remain constant and an average battery pack cost of £6000 car, and 50% EV/PHEV share by 2035 then this represents a UK supply chain opportunity of >£5bn/year by 2035. Or, put another way, around 2 Tesla Giga Factories worth of cells.

If you extend the thinking to the 18 million cars manufactured in the EU then it’s an opportunity of over £50bn/yr at 2035.

So the stakes for the UK as a threat as well as an opportunity are high, very high.

Red and blue starburst Industrial Strategy logo next to the words 'Industrial Strategy'

Why is this a case for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund?

So what makes us think this is a case for the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund? (ISCF)

Well, the aim of ISCF is transform existing industries and create new ones and in the case of the electrification of transport , we have the chance to do both.

The only operational automotive battery cell manufacturing plant in Europe

What makes the UK think it has a chance? Well, it should not be forgotten that the UK currently has the only operational automotive battery cell manufacturing plant in Europe (Sunderland), the UK invented the re-chargeable Lithium Ion cell! To this day, the UK has some of the world’s leading scientists in this field. Global demand for automotive batteries is going to soar beyond anything we see today.

The key is to act now to change the course of history in favour of the UK converting this opportunity into high value jobs and economic activity or let others do it and possibly take our car industry with it.

Enter the Industrial Strategy Challenge Fund Faraday Challenge………..


You can hear Tony speak at the FT Future of the car event 15th May.

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